Monday, 9 March 2009

An Italian Vine

March is a month full of promise and new beginnings. As the wind picks up and playfully tugs at our hats and scarves, we notice that the evenings are getting longer and the days are getting warmer. London parks are transformed by fields of blue, yellow and pink Crocus chrysanthus and the odd early daffodil poking their flowering heads from the soil. Bird song rises you from your bed in the morning, to be greeted by the clearest of blue skies enticing you outside, only to be caught in a rain shower later in the afternoon. All these things put a skip in my step and a song in my heart, for I know that we are finally saying goodbye to the cold grip of Winter and hello to the beauty of Spring!

As we move into a new season, I find myself automatically changing the food I purchase and prepare. No longer do I crave heavy, starchy meals to warm me from the inside out, but find myself enthralled by new green veggies, bright eyed and white fleshed fish and soft pink and red fruits. As I walked through the fresh produce market this morning I was surrounded by baskets full of beautiful purple sprouting broccoli, brilliant little green salad onions, huge bunches of sorrel leaves, prickly-haired kiwi fruits, soft green fennels and gem like chicory. All this was already enough to make my mouth water and set my mind to work on creating amazing dishes to prepare. As I selectively filled my basket, I came across my favourite product of early Spring, Italian vine-ripened tomatoes. Cherry, baby, plum and dei moro varieties were all trying to catch my attention with their bright red little cheeks hanging from their deep green, aromatic vines.

Grown and ripened in the Mediterranean sun, these super-sweet little tomatoes are bursting with flavour, asking for nothing more than a grind of rock salt and black pepper. Eaten fresh, roasted, grilled or fried, they are the perfect accompaniment to white meat, their acidic sweetness cutting through the fattiness of pork, thrilling your tongue with their umami taste and leaving you eager for the next mouthful. With my brown-paper bag full of tomatoes and other spring greens, I headed home with ideas for dinner racing through my head.

After much deliberation and raiding the kitchen cupboards, I started by thinly slicing pork loin, and marinating the strips in a smoky barbecue sauce bought from a local deli. While letting the pork rest in the fridge, I cut a few of the larger tomatoes into cubes, added tiny slivers of Spanish onion, drizzled some balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil over it and gave it a good pinch of seasoning, to make a fresh salsa. After everything had marinated for a couple of hours and we were ready for dinner, I heated the customary tablespoon of oil in a large pan to quickly fry the meat, to which I added some bright yellow corn kernels and roughly chopped spring onions. Spooning the meat and salsa onto warm tortilla wraps, folding it into one neat little package and taking a big bite, I could not stop a smile from spreading across my face, Spring is in the air!

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