i fell asleep in tuscany and dreamed, the one thing missing was you

If I sound hysterical and shrill, like a man, at any point in this blog post it’s because my old flatmate and always-friend Charlotte and I took our gay selves off to see the heavily acclaimed film Carol, starring Cate Blanchett’s Aggressive Feline Charisma and Rooney Mara’s Quiet Strength and Vulnerability. Basically it’s an Important Lesbian Film and each frame of it is so beautiful that you could print the lot out and pin them sequentially to your bedroom walls and spin around forever and ever watching the story unfold as you get dizzier and dizzier from happiness and, well, spinning around. Honestly, go see it. Even if you’re like, “sounds a bit gay to me, and I’d prefer that kind of thing kept behind closed doors thank you kindly,” (in which case I really don’t know why you’re reading this blog anyway) just know that the performances are so entrancing and the costumes and sets and cinematography are so artful and the music is exquisite and it’s nominated for a zillion Oscars, which means even a bunch of conservative dull old men thought it was worth watching.

Anyway: any money I used to get through tips at work (which is never much, as New Zealanders tend to be incredibly reluctant to tip hospo workers, but that’s a story for another day – actually, that’s the whole story) used to go towards bus money to get me in and out of Newtown. Now that I’m no longer beholden to those busses, all expensive and stuffily overheated and so slow they were definitely going backwards at several stages during the journey, I can spend my tip money on other things. Like vegetables at the market! I have not been to the vegetable market since, I can confidently estimate, around May 2014. Luckily that’s not the last time I actually ate a vegetable, but it’s certainly the last time I felt any sense of ecstasy from buying one. Two taut-skinned, richly purple eggplants for four stupid tiny dollars! A huge bunch of cavolo nero for one and a half dollars! A perfect avocado for eighty cents! (Ah yes, there’s the hysteria.)

With great quantities of vegetables comes great quantities of searching through pinterest and marvelling at the superior lives being led by everyone in America with a blog. I found this incredible-looking recipe for cavolo nero cooked in a carbonara type sauce; and so that became my lunch yesterday within a matter of minutes.

I’m still 100% enamoured with my new house by the way, not least because of its proximity to the vege market making it easier for me to achieve non-scurvy.

putting up some artwork always makes a place feel like it’s mine, all mine. 

My bedroom is feeling more and more like a haven every day, and I’m thoroughly enjoying getting to know the kitchen better, not least because my roommate has a ton of sexy-and-functional cookware that I can play with. And it was one such item – a rather gorgeous shiny saucepan – which I used to swiftly make this recipe. I love cavolo nero, or Tuscan Kale as it’s also known – its leaves are so mutedly dark green and thick, holding their shape under heat while full of almost meaty, rich flavour. Obviously you could fry socks with bacon and cream and they’d be fairly palatable, but throw these heavy leaves into such a mixture and the result is incredible. The recipe I found online wasn’t quite carbonara-y enough for me, so I shaved in slivers of fresh nutmeg, warm and delicate, and added plenty of sharp, crumbly parmesan. I really didn’t measure any of the quantities, which is why the recipe is a tiny bit vague, but if you follow your instincts (essentially: as much cavolo nero as you can be bothered slicing and washing, as much bacon as you can be bothered slicing, and so on, will be as much as you need.)

tuscan kale carbonara

adapted a bit from this recipe at the stone soup. 

several large cavolo nero leaves – around half a bunch
two rashers streaky bacon
butter or olive oil for frying
four tablespoons of cream
fresh nutmeg
parmesan cheese
freshly ground salt and pepper

slice and discard the stems from the cavolo nero leaves (or brew into a nutritious tea or something if that makes you feel guilty), and either keep the leaves as they are or slice them into ribbons. Slice the bacon into small pieces and fry in butter or olive oil till sizzling and crisp. Remove from the pan – I just put them onto the serving plate I was planning to use – and throw the leaves into the pan. Sprinkle a little water over if you like, and just stir and lift them over a high heat till they soften and darken a little. Return the bacon to the pan, and pour over the cream, allowing it to bubble and thicken, which it should do rather quickly. Remove it from the heat, and use a vegetable peeler or small grater to scrape a little fresh nutmeg into the pan, followed by as much parmesan as you feel like. Finish with as much salt and pepper as would make you happy. 

Honestly, this is such a perfect lunch for one – I rakishly deglazed the pan with more cream just to make sure I was able to scrape up all the bacon juices, and recommend you do the same. If you want there to be more to it there’s nothing stopping you serving it with thick slices of bread or stirred through a tangle of pasta, but untampered with, this is total excellence. The only thing I’d do if I owned some was to pour in a little dry white vermouth with the bacon (which is Nigella’s influence: she says “I use this ingredient” and I say “how high”.)

As well as tasting wondrous it’s also very beautiful in its own way – those dark, wrinkly leaves flopping about artlessly with the pink of the bacon and the gold of the cream. This is absolutely going to winkle its way into my regular rotation of recipes – especially because you could always use regular kale, or indeed, silverbeet or spinach – just with the latter two, make sure you add the leaves right at the end because spinach, especially, will wilt into nothingness soon as look at you.

If you’ve got to this point in my blog post and are still totally endeared by me (in which case: well done on your accurate opinion) then I would like to direct you to my new recipe index that I’ve been working on. I’m super proud of it on account of it took a lot of html code copy-pasting and a TON of URL copy-pasting to make it happen, and it’s still a mere work in progress, but it’s already so gratifyingly pretty and useful! (Oh yeah, and as soon as I posted this I brazenly went to update the recipe index and made all the html disappear somehow and now it looks rubbish, so uh, bear with me please.)

PS: even if you never eat another vegetable in your life, just make sure you go watch Carol. And then come shriek with me.
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title from: the important Janet Jackson and her beautiful song Runaway
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music lately:

I cannot stop listening to Rihanna’s new album Anti, especially the dreamydreamydreamy Work featuring Drake and the oh-no-now-I’m-sobbing-forever waltz that is Love on the Brain. (The waltz: a totally underrated time signature.)

I also cannot stop listening to Modern Lovers, something about Jonathan Richman’s voice makes me feel in full teenage dirtbag mode. Obviously I have two ears and a heart and so am obsessed with the song Roadrunner, but maaaaan, Hospital and the early-Who-y I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms are so worth a re-tread.
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next time: I was given a copy of Nigella’s new cookbook and it’s very beautiful and exciting and I cannot wait to cook my way through it…

One thought on “i fell asleep in tuscany and dreamed, the one thing missing was you

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