Get these recipes from award-winning chef and author, Peter Gilmore, from his newest book, “From The Earth: World’s Great, Rare and Almost Forgotten Vegetables.”
Peter Gilmore is one of Australia’s most acclaimed chefs, owning two of the most exciting and dynamic restaurants: Quay Restaurant across the harbor in The Rocks & Bennelong at the Sydney Opera House. In his new book, “From The Earth: World’s Great, Rare and Almost Forgotten Vegetables,” Gilmore takes you on an epicurean journey into the world of rare and almost forgotten vegetables.
Narratives come to life through recipes by Chef Gilmore and stunning photography by Brett Stevens. A passion for growing vegetables is shown through Gilmore’s green thumb alongside like-minded sustainable growers local to Australia. Unusual heirloom varieties are presented through detailed profiles where Gilmore says it best, “Heirlooms are our collective inheritance.”
The Diverse World of Heirloom Vegetables
In an age where restaurants are willing to pay a premium to offer something different, this book couldn’t have presented itself at a more poignant place in time. The result is awareness to create a new market and a better livelihood for small-scale farmers who grow new discoveries for local restaurants.
As you take and deep dive into the world of forgotten vegetables and small-scale farming practices, it’s easy to come to recognize the details in this publication that made it become nominated for the 2019 James Beard Book Award in the Restaurant and Professional category.
Follow James Beard Foundation on Twitter and tune in on Friday, April 26, when they’ll announce the winners of the book, broadcast, and journalism awards at the JBF Media Awards in New York City.
Take a Deep Dive Into These Forgotten Vegetables
Recipes excerpted with permission from From the Earth by Peter Gilmore, published by Hardie Grant Books October 2018, Hardcover.
Photography by Brett Srevens
SPECIES: CICHORIUM INTYBUS L.
CULTIVAR: CATALOGNA PUNTARELLE DI GALATINA
Puntarelle is a most remarkable type of leaf chicory, sometimes referred to as asparagus chicory because of the swollen, asparagus-like stems that sprout from the centre of the plant as it starts to reach maturity. The shoots are unique, with a mild, attractive bitterness and a crisp texture.
Chicories in general are thought to be a native of Eurasia, but it is the Italians who have been responsible for cultivating many of the unique forms we have today – chicory Catalogna Puntarelle di Galatina gets its name from the southern Italian town of Galatina in Puglia, where it is believed to have been first grown.
In Italy, a chicory salad is often served between courses (traditionally, chicory has been considered a great aid for digestion and is said to stimulate the appetite) and puntarelle in particular features in the Roman salad of the same name, in which the stems are soaked in a couple of changes of cold water to help leach some of the bitterness, then thinly sliced and served with a dressing of anchovy, garlic and wine vinegar pounded and emulsified with extra-virgin olive oil. Puntarelle can also be briefly blanched in boiling water, the cooking reducing its bitterness, then dressed with olive oil and salt.
I grew puntarella last year in my home garden and soon realised each plant needed a fair bit of space around it, at least 60–70 cm (24–28 in), as they are quite vigorous. As the puntarella initially looked similar to other chicories I had grown, I didn’t think I was going to see the characteristic swollen stems develop. It turned out, however, that these form once the plant is quite mature, at which point it truly is an impressive thing to behold.
FRIED PUNTARELLE CHICORY
The puntarelle chicory is quite unique in the chicory family. Famed for its swollen stems, it has the characteristic bitter flavour associated with chicories but, when cooked, that flavour becomes milder. This is a very simple recipe that uses potato flour to coat the chicory stems. You could serve these with aïoli or a yoghurt-based dipping sauce.
- 1 whole puntarelle chicory (endive)
- 2 litres (68 fl oz/8 cups) sunflower oil
- 250 g (9 oz/ 1 2/3 cups) potato flour
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- approx. 250 ml (8 ½ fl oz/1 cup) soda water (club soda)
Trim off the puntarelle base and remove the bitter top leaves. Cut the puntarelle stems into finger-sized pieces.
Heat the oil to 180ºC (350ºF) in a large saucepan.
Place the flour into a large mixing bowl, season with sea salt and pepper and whisk in enough soda water to form a thin batter. Dip the puntarelle stems into the batter, then lower into the oil and fry in small batches for 1–2 minutes until lightly golden. Season with sea salt and serve immediately.
Precoce di Jesi Cauliflower
SPECIES: BRASSICA OLERACEA VAR. BOTRYTIS
CULTIVAR: PRECOCE DI JESI
Precoce di Jesi is a rare heirloom variety of cauliflower originally grown near Venice. It has a circular shape with a soft yellow colour and spiralling florets.
Cauliflowers in general are thought to have been cultivated for more than 2000 years in the eastern Mediterranean region. Closely related to cabbage, broccoli and other brassicas, they are appreciated for their tightly clustered curds (usually white to cream in colour, though there are varieties that are purple and green), mild flavour and versatility in the kitchen. Cauliflowers contain high levels of the antioxidant glucoraphanin, a compound said to reduce blood cholesterol and the risk of cancer.
Cauliflowers are best grown in full sun in an organically rich, fertile soil that is both well composted and well drained. Spring and autumn temperatures suit them best, and varieties like Precoce di Jesi have been developed that are ‘early’ – meaning they are planted in early spring and harvested in early summer. They do not do well in the heat of summer, though there are varieties that give an autumn harvest, as well as others that can be sown in late summer and ‘over-wintered’ to produce an early spring crop.
I first came across the Precoce di Jesi in an Italian seed catalogue and knew I had to grow it, initially for its beautiful pale yellow colour and spiralling florets. Now I continue to grow it for its flavour and tenderness. One of my favourite ways to prepare it is as an Indian-style pakora, coating the cauliflower in a spiced batter made from chickpea flour before frying, though it also makes a delicious purée or soup and pairs with shellfish beautifully.
PRECOCE DI JESI, PORK CRACKLING AND AGED COMTÉ SALAD
Precoce di Jesi is my favourite cauliflower; the yellow heads and green stems make it visually striking and it has a clean, sweet flavour. In this salad, I have combined it with pork crackling and aged comté, though you could easily make this vegetarian by replacing the pork crackling with sourdough croutons.
- 1 x 300 g (10 ½ oz) piece pork skin
- 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) grapeseed oil
Place the pork skin in a vacuum-seal bag and seal, removing all the air. Steam on high for 2 hours, then cool and remove the skin from the bag. Place the skin, underside up, on a chopping board and scrape away as much fat as possible using a sharp knife. Transfer the skin to a dehydrator or a very low oven preheated to 80ºC (175ºF) and dehydrate for 4 hours, or until dry and crisp.
In a large heavy-based saucepan, heat the oil to 200ºC (400ºF). Add the dried skin pieces to the hot oil in three or four batches – they should instantaneously puff up and triple in size. Remove from the oil, drain well on paper towel and leave to cool, then break into small shards and store in an airtight container until required.
WHITE CAULIFLOWER PURÉE
- 1 tablespoon finely diced shallot
- 1 teaspoon finely diced garlic
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz) unsalted butter
- 200 g (7 oz) white cauliflower florets, finely chopped
- 250 ml (8 ½ fl oz/1 cup) Chicken Stock
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz) crème fraïche
- sea salt
In a heavy-based saucepan, sauté. the shallots and garlic in the butter over a medium heat until translucent. Increase the heat to high, add the cauliflower florets and chicken stock and simmer until virtually all the liquid has evaporated, then transfer the mixture to a food processor and blend on high speed to a fine purée. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve and leave to cool completely, then whisk in the crème fraïche and season with sea salt. Refrigerate until needed.
- ¼ teaspoon dried chamomile flowers
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely diced shallots
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Whisk together all the ingredients in a small bowl.
- 1 Precoce di Jesi cauliflower head, cut into very small florets
- sea salt
- 100 g (3 ½ oz) aged comté
- 1 small handful of fresh chamomile flowers or other small edible white flowers
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and have a large bowl of iced water on standby. Blanch the cauliflower florets in the boiling water for 10 seconds, then immediately refresh in the iced water. Drain.
Dress the blanched cauliflower florets in the chamomile vinaigrette and season to taste with sea salt, then arrange the dressed cauliflower on a platter. Using a microplane, grate over the comté. Top with the pork crackling pieces and small dots of cauliflower purée, and garnish with chamomile or other white flowers. Serve.
Manganji Sweet Pepper
SPECIES: CAPSICUM ANNUUM
The Manganji pepper is considered to be the king of sweet peppers in Japan. Designated as kyo yasai, one of the forty-one specialty vegetables grown in the Kyoto region considered to have distinct qualities, it was developed in the 1920s by Japanese growers who intentionally crossed traditional Japanese fushimi peppers with Californian bell peppers. The resulting Manganji pepper, named after the temple in Maizuru city in northern Kyoto, has a thicker wall than other similar peppers and a lacquered shiny surface. It is often eaten green, although, allowed to fully ripen, the skin becomes red and the rich, sweet, fruity flavour becomes fully realised.
Sweet peppers were originally introduced into Japan by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century, though their origins lie in south and central America, where they are believed to have been cultivated by the indigenous populations from 7500 BC. No matter where they are grown, peppers love the sun and need a warm climate to do well. They grow best in loam or sandy soils with a wide-ranging pH (anything from pH 5–8) and need good drainage, although they also need regular moisture – too many nutrients can result in excess leaf growth and poor fruit formation.
Each summer I attempt to grow different varieties of both sweet and hot chilli peppers. The Manganji peppers I grew this year are among my all-time favourite peppers and I quite understand why they are considered a delicacy in Japan, where they are often charcoal grilled in high-end restaurants.
CHARCOAL-ROASTED MANGANJI PEPPER WITH BLACK GARLIC PASTE
At the height of summer, when these peppers are ripe, there is nothing better than just charcoal grilling them and adorning them with this simple fermented black garlic paste.
BLACK GARLIC PASTE
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz) unsalted butter
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz) finely diced shallots
- 50 g (1 ¾ oz) inner celery stalk, white part only, finely diced
- 200 g (7 oz) fermented black garlic cloves, peeled
- 200 ml (7 fl oz) Chicken Stock
- sea salt
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the shallots and celery and gently sauté. until translucent. Add the garlic cloves and chicken stock, increase the heat to high and simmer until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Place the contents into a food processor or blender and blitz on high speed for 1 minute. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve, season to taste with sea salt and refrigerate until needed (it will keep for up to 1 week).
- 16 Manganji sweet peppers
- extra-virgin olive oil
- sea salt
Heat a charcoal grill and, when the charcoal is glowing and the grill is quite hot, lightly brush the peppers with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill the peppers until they soften and the skin starts to blister. (If you don’t have a charcoal grill, a cast-iron griddle pan makes an acceptable substitute here.)
Remove the peppers from the heat, then brush again with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place a spoonful of the garlic paste on each serving plate, lay the peppers alongside and serve immediately.