Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Robiola Crostini with Pine Nuts, Honey & Sea Salt


Spring is here in New York. Well allegedly. The sun is a little higher and the crocuses are out, though the wind off the Hudson still verges on arctic at times. There are always a couple of weeks at the end of winter where the world feels uncertain, faltering, reluctant. Not quite sure it can rev itself up again for the big push.

Possibly I’m projecting.

At any rate, ready or not, come spring must, and when it does, it will be inevitably glorious. But every year there is a lesson I have to learn anew. Just when spring fever finally takes hold, and just when cold weather lovers like me start to yearn in earnest for the warmth and ease they didn’t know they missed, horror will strike. Though we are suddenly, urgently hungry for them, new crops will be nowhere to be found. For an age.

Spring has to get underway before crops can start to grow out in the field, and it takes a good while of course for any crop to be ready for harvest. When eager forays to the farmer’s market begin to feel like a waiting game, it’s best for our poor, snowed-under morales if we can look beneath the surface for signs of hope. Small changes will be in evidence, I promise.




Take milk. As soon as there is even a scattering of green shoots for livestock to graze on, their milk starts to taste floral, sweeter, greener. You will actually notice a darker cream line if you’re lucky enough to buy your spring milk unhomogenized. It’ll be a little longer before we’ll start to taste the difference in cheeses, but they’ll be sweeter, grassier, and more herbal too.

The younger cheeses of northern Italy make a magnificent celebration of spring. There’s the late May/early June pecorino dolce in Tuscany, the Friulian formaggi di malga or mountain cheeses, and the softer, taleggio-type cheeses of Lombardy – all much loved ways to mark the return of growing season.

This dish is a mainstay at my house – one it's good to have on hand as soon as the early season cheeses hit the market. It’s traditionally prepared with robiola lombardia, which is aged in caves in the Valsassina. The full, nutty, fruit-tinged cheese is served in the traditional way – on crostini with a drizzle of honey, sharp, brightly-flavored sea salt, and a scattering of richly-toasted pignoli. There is truly no recipe necessary.

Beth Bischoff, a photographer friend of mine whom I’ve worked with for years, took the top picture at a dinner party I gave in my roof garden, back when I had a roof garden. Which was a long time ago, so you can tell this has been a spring favorite of mine for quite a while.

So long winter.

19 comments:

Jared said...

I would imagine these would work nicely with the pecorino dolce too.

Anonymous said...

Found your blog through Farmgirl Fare and I can see why Susan loves it! I'm looking forward to exploring some more
Theresa

Toffeeapple said...

How lucky you are to be able to buy fresh milk. Here in UK we can only buy it direct from the farmer, our laws don't allow it to be sold in stores or markets. I do love Crostini.

In answer to your query in the last post, yes I do love that area.

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

Jared, I agree that's a great idea! Though admittedly there's not much I wouldn't like with fresh, in-season pecorino dolce.

Theresa, Thank you and welcome. Susan is a good egg.

Toffeeapple, the difference in the laws between the UK and the US are so interesting to me. Even the differences in what in makes sense to buy organically, etc. And of course I think you're terribly lucky to be so near to Basque country and all those other places besides. Have you spent much time there? (Basque country I mean).

Molly said...

This looks like a lovely way to welcome spring. Of course, here in Boston we're expecting nearly half a foot on Friday. I guess we'll have to hold out a little longer for produce from the farmer's market.

tribecachef said...

Do I remember that dinner? Sardines?

Gloria said...

Amanda this look delicious I love crostini, xgloria

Jo S. said...

I love crostini, and this is simple and beautful.

Jenn @leftoverqueen said...

I so hear your sentiments! As I type this we have another winter storm warning, where we could get another FOOT of snow! Today is so sunny and beautiful it is hard to imagine! You are so right about how milk is a seasonal food and changes flavor depending on what the cows are eating! Now I want some milk!

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

Molly, Can you believe it isn't finished with us yet? I just got back from NH, and there was 6 feet of snow at my parents' house!!!

Tribecachef, why yes I do believe there were sardines. Grilled. Good memory.

Gloria, thank you! I do too : )

Jo S., thank you! I love simple flavors and textures that balance. Salty and sweet/ creamy and crisp. It must be why I've kept this in my repertoire all these years.

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

Oh! Jenn I'm sorry. Just saw you there. Another foot??? I was just in NH and my parents have 6 feet built up over the winter. Plus there was just an ice storm and there are trees down everywhere. What a winter. You are the dairy expert and I defer to you entirely. Have you ever had cheese made after the livestock graze on the fresh garlic and chive sprouts? The milk is apparently truly revolting, but the cheese is amazing.

Sylvia said...

Today, what a coincidence, we have talegio for dessert. You are lucky to find fresh milk .

Hazel said...

I miss bottles of milk where you can see the cream at the top like we had in my childhood and the shiny foil bottle tops. You very lucky to have the availability Amanda.

Jesse's Kitchen Trails said...

Sounds delicious! I found you through Susan's blog, and your site looks great.

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

Sylvia, yum! How fun!! Delicious dessert.
And yes we are lucky. There's wonderful unhomogenized milk at the market.

Hazel, we had milk just like that delivered fresh to our doorstep in Scotland when I was growing up! I miss it.

Jesse, I'm glad you found me! Susan has such a great site.

Lucy said...

(I really want to buy a cookbook that you're written, darls...)

The Hungry Gap, I've heard it called, and boy, I know that feeling well.

Here it's autumn, and it's dark and rainy, and, 'cos we didn't really have a summer this year, I'm surprised by how mournful I feel about the cold weather that's ahead...I say this as a fellow cold weatehr gal! x

Figs, Bay, Wine said...

Oh Lucy here's hoping. Though perhaps an inter continental collaboration is in order. I can't believe how you skipped summer this year. Your internal clock must be all off.

Lucy said...

Internal clock going crayzeee.

And you know what? I'm really, really liking your idea about inter-continental book-age...thinking cap on... X

Sarah said...

It is indeed the toughest part of the year with the craving for light, spring fare, yet no ingredients for such to be found. Waiting (impatiently) along with you.

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