All the green of Milan
2021 was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly “International Year of Fruit and Vegetables”. This choice is dictated by the need to raise public awareness of the nutritional benefits and the importance of fruit and vegetables for human nutrition, food safety, health and sustainability.
The pandemic, lockdowns and smartworking have certainly contributed to making Italians even more aware of how much the consumption of fruit and vegetables play a fundamental role in prevention and health. Having more time available, the Italians were able to devote themselves more to cooking, and therefore also to the choice and consumption of vegetables.
To tell the truth, for some years now the plant world has experienced a trend of growth in sales and consumption. This is also evidenced by the increasing attention that food delivery, chefs and restaurants have given to vegetables, making them more and more protagonists of dedicated dishes and menus.
We wanted to collect the testimonies of three chefs, who have made vegetables an important element of their menus, to find out if and how this situation has changed their approach to the vegetable world and understand with them the role that vegetables and menus will have. vegetables in the restart.
Pietro Leemann is the Swiss chef who has made vegetables a philosophy for many years. His restaurant Joia in Milan was in fact the first European vegetarian restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in 1996. At the base of its vegetable cuisine, as well as aiming to be healthy, gourmet and better for the environment and world, also has an important prevention aspect: healthy eating means helping the body to prevent disease.
“Conceptually before the pandemic, cooking in general had reached an extreme level of elaboration and sophistication. This is why we have been studying a menu with a reassuring and direct language for some time. The kitchen must be transparent, bring people and cultures together and bring them together. The vegetable represents nature, but if you sophisticated it too much it loses its beauty. Instead, we must rediscover that relationship with nature and its products. When we are still, as in this long year, it is nice to take the opportunity to study, think and reflect. And that’s what I did too. This is the second season that we fail to make a spring menu due to the pandemic. It is for this reason that I am working to accumulate the typical ingredients of spring to propose spring-summer hybrid dishes for the reopening. There are two paths that I am pursuing: on the one hand I am studying to compose three elements such as Castello asparagus (treated with delicate malolactic fermentation), bear’s garlic (a bulbous, herbaceous, perennial, erect plant not very tall, with flowers white and wide leaves, delicate and silky, with the pungent smell of garlic) and the herbs that grow wild in the mountains. On the other hand, I’m thinking back to my teacher Gualtiero Marchesi and his simple revolution with fresh / refreshed pasta. I am therefore working on a lukewarm tagliolini suitable for summer, to which we will combine typical North African sauces based on sesame, ginger, chilli and lemon. As evidence of the fact that food unites distant cultures and places that come together. The careful use of spices also as a condiment is part of our approach: a diet that helps health. For example, adding ginger or lemon juice to dishes stimulates digestion and assimilation of substances “.
The chef from Savona Luigi Taglienti has been working for many years to give the plant world the importance of a main dish at the same level as a meat, a fish or a first course. It is precisely for this commitment and for the role that vegetables play in his menus that at the end of 2020 he received the “Best Vegetable Restaurant” award at the 19th edition of the Awards organized in Belgium by We’re Smart Green Guide, a world reference in the culinary world of vegetables.
“These periods of closure have allowed me to experience my method of cooking normally at a restaurant at home, discovering a pleasant everyday life that is completely new to me, given the rhythms I had before. I have therefore kept my suppliers with home deliveries of the highest quality following the pace of the seasons. I like to define my cuisine as instinctive. I love to create my dishes, letting myself be inspired by the sensitivities and vibrations that the ingredients I have before my eyes give me, without thinking too much about the technique. For me, the figure of the cook must develop a new sensitivity towards the vegetable world. The role of cooks is important because they repay other cooks and researchers of the little ones but great Italian ingredients. For the restart there may be some news that at the moment, however, it is premature to reveal. My dishes, my cuisine as well as my life remains in constant evolution. It will be time to talk about the new ideas that will come to me “.
Roberto Di Pinto
Of Neapolitan origins, chef Robert Di Pinto has always paid particular attention to vegetables. His menus have always been linked to the seasonality of the ingredients, not only for vegetables, but also for meats. And that approach hasn’t changed with the pandemic.
“In my recipes I love to use vegetables that have a great story to tell, from Risotto with turnip greens with burrata sauce and crunchy hazelnuts to fried Pizzetta with broccoli, bonito and basil. So, in addition to those I am most attached to for reasons of regional identity (such as the Neapolitan broccoli, which I use with great love, or the Neapolitan torzelle), this year I also discovered more typically northern vegetables. One of the most successful dishes, in fact, during the short period we were open, was the Rosa di Gorizia paired with the beef heart. The Rosa di Gorizia is a short-lived excellence, but which gives great satisfaction in the kitchen. The veneto fiolaro broccoli is a product that I fell in love with, that I didn’t know before but that I wanted to discover during this period. During the period of forced detention, I have developed a greater dialogue with suppliers. Closing restaurants means putting an entire supply chain in crisis. The lockdown of restaurants affects all sectors, from agriculture to fishing. With the suppliers I have been collaborating with for years and with whom I am a friend, the dialogue has been strengthened even more because we have tried to work with them on the seasonality of the products. I then had the opportunity to deepen my knowledge with the world of flour. I discovered new mills, I tried and experimented with many flours because I wanted to create a bread that would take me back in time. Now we are already working on the new menu for reopening. There will be many seasonal vegetables: peas, broad beans, asparagus, wild asparagus, vegetables, nettles. All the ingredients we use, in fact, are the result of choices not only in the kitchen, but also in the heart. In addition to new dishes, we will also have new proposals for the dessert menu. We will make room for fruit. We are creating a new dessert that will take everyone back in time. We work constantly, trying to develop new flavors and improve our service, without ever stopping “.