My maternal great-grandfather was a market gardener. Therefore, his son dreamed all his life of growing his own fruits and vegetables. He finally got there when I was born, planting several fruit trees, three small vines and a large vegetable patch.
All this was, over the seasons, the theater of permanent plant experiments, the signs of which we can still see today – long after his death -, in the form of fairly mysterious trees and which we suspect of producing fruits not at all edible.
Certain varieties of vegetables, which he planted without knowing how to take care of them, ended up producing landscapes worthy of the most appalling fantastic tales: the black cabbage, which he had planted to cook a famous Tuscan soup, had gradually reached my size, and we wouldn't be surprised to see a large green rabbit with flaming eyes hanging around.
In light of all this, I timidly advanced a wish.
Thanks to my parents' attempts to get me to eat a minimum of vitamins, I had just discovered the existence of kiwis, which I had found edible. Maybe because we could cut them in half and eat them with a spoon like yogurt. In short, I asked my grandfather to plant a kiwi tree.
My grandfather had made a short growl which obviously meant: "No."
And I have a very clear memory of my mother, chaining: "Wait, but … (implied: in all this mess), wouldn't you plant a fruit to please your grandson? ”
"No, it's not from us."
End of the discussion. We didn't have a kiwi in the garden.
However, kiwi is indeed a fruit from the other side of the world, namely China, and it is the national fruit of New Zealand. In our traditional European dishes, there is no trace of this fruit that we generally eat as is, not cooked.
The only time you really use it is in pastry, on pies and pavlovas, to give freshness to creamy and fatty desserts. Which is also a very bad idea, because kiwi – like lemon juice – breaks down dairy products almost immediately and with a simple touch, precipitating the whipped creams and the assembled parts, and leaving us with these little liquid puddles that everyone has seen once.
On the other hand, it turns out that nowadays, the kiwi is very homegrown. The second largest producer of kiwi in the world is … Italy. Production is also concentrated in the south of Piedmont, just before the mountains which separate the country where I was born from the country where I learned everything I know.
And one of the things I learned is that the stories of "homegrown" products are often tricky. Because it is very good the soil and the regional products, on the condition of going to see, in real life, what we cultivate on our hills.
Rutabaga in remoulade, kiwi and bergamot
Remoulade celery-style rutabaga. | Tommaso Melilli
Rutabaga is a somewhat cursed and often overlooked vegetable: it looks like nothing, it has a rather cacophonic name and, to top it all, it recalls the deprivation of wartime.
I tried to work it raw, like a celeriac waiting for its remoulade, with slices of kiwi to give it even more flavor.
For 4 people, as a starter
- 2 large rutabaga roots or 3 medium
- 4 kiwis
- 1 bergamot (or 1 untreated yellow lemon)
- the squeezed juice of a lemon
- 1 egg yolk (at room temperature)
- 2 tablespoons old-fashioned mustard
- 150ml sunflower oil
- 15 fresh mint leaves
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon whole salt
- Freshly ground pepper
Start with the remoulade: mix the egg yolk with the mustard, and start adding the olive oil to the small net, without stopping to whip.
When the mayonnaise is firm, melt half a teaspoon of salt in the lemon juice, and put half of it in the mustard mayonnaise.
Mix again and taste. Add the cinnamon, chopped shallot and more lemon, if you like. Keep aside.
Peel the rutabagas and grate them in a large bowl with the large side of the grater. Add the other half of the salt and any excess lemon juice and mix.
Peel the kiwis with a small paring knife and cut them into large pieces.
Just before serving, mix the remoulade, grated rutabaga and kiwi wedges. Pepper, add the fresh mint and grate just a little bergamot zest (not too much, or it might smell like dish soap). Serve.
Filet mignon of pig, kiwi and caramelized red onions
The pig always goes well with the fruit. | Tommaso Melilli
We seldom make a mistake when we serve pigs with fruit, apples and even cherries. It is a recipe that can be cooked in 30 minutes, using a single pan.
For 4 people, flat
- 1 pork tenderloin raised in decent conditions
- 4 kiwis
- 4 small red onions
- 1 stem of fresh rosemary
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon unrefined salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Cut the filet mignon in half and massage it with the salt. Heat a large pan for which you have a lid, pour in the olive oil, place the two pieces of fillet and brown for 3 minutes on each side.
Meanwhile, prepare the garnish: peel the kiwis and onions and cut them in half vertically.
Place the onions and kiwi fruit side down in the pan with the pig. Add the bay leaf and rosemary, reduce the heat and cover.
Cook for another 20 minutes over low heat and covered, without moving anything, to have a pinkish cooking, or 30 for a perfect cooking.
Take the meat out of the pan and cut it into large slices. Divide the meat into four plates, with a few pieces of kiwi and onion in each. Finish by basting with the juice lying at the bottom of the pan.