I am very lucky to share our yard with neighbours who are seemingly endlessly patient with my plant-loving ways. I’m not sure how many times now I’ve interrupted them getting on with their very good and generous lawn-mowing intentions “for just five minutes so I can harvest the <insert name of weed here>”. I sort of declared this patch of yarrow off-limits as soon as I saw it coming up between the patio slabs and, luckily again, everyone has obliged.
Lookit how happy and lush and Seussian they are! If Whoville needed a plant mascot, yarrow should be it.
We had yarrow all over the front yard at our last place, but it was in constant competition with a whole lot of other stuff, so it grew tall, but never all fluffy and happy like this.
If you’ve never had yarrow before, it’s really worth checking out. It has a delicate, slightly peppery, slightly citrussy and very green flavour. It makes a delightful tea, but my favourite use for it is as a complement to white fish, shellfish and vegetables.
Harvesting yarrow is a cinch as the fronds come out almost as though they want to be taken home and consumed. Just make sure to follow the basic rules of foraging: gather as far from the road as possible and be respectful of the plant by taking no more than a third.
Once you get it home, give it a bath in one part cold water to one part white vinegar for a good half hour. From there, you can hang it to dry or give it a good pat down and remove the leaves, which is easily done at this stage by running your fingers counter-growth way down the stems. I enjoy the stems and am usually chopping the yarrow finely, so I can’t be arsed with that part.
So, the recipe I’m sharing is dead simple and basically a glorified aglio e olio. You can serve it as a side and it will make four servings for that purpose, but I’m fond of it as a main. In true Melanist vegetarian dish form, it’s entirely vegan…until you add the cheese, which is totally optional.
What you need:
- 2 cups of uncooked penne
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- 3 cups of fresh, green beans, washed, trimmed and halved (so they’re about the same size as the penne)
- 1/4 cup of good quality olive oil + 1 tbsp for sautéeing the beans
- 8 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced
- 1.5 cups of reserved liquid from cooking the pasta
- 1 tsbp chili flakes
- 1/2 cup dry, white wine (a pinot grigio is perfect for this)
- 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese + more for serving (optional)
- 1/4 cup yarrow fronds, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
What you do:
- In a large pot, cook your pasta to the point of being a little less done than al dente. Strain and don’t forget to reserve 1.5 cups of the cooking liquid. Set both the pasta and the cooking liquid aside.
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, sautée the beans in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and a little salt and pepper. You’ll also want these just a chew-point below al dente. Set aside.
- In a large pot (I use the same one I use for the pasta because doing dishes sucks), heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil and garlic over medium-low heat just until the garlic begins to take on a golden hue. We don’t want it browned and we certainly don’t want it burnt.
- Remove the pot from the heat for two minutes so’s not to have hot oil bubbling up in your face.
- Whisk in one half cup of the cooking liquid and the chili flakes and return the skillet to a burner and raise the heat to medium-high.
- Continue whisking and adding cooking liquid, about a quarter of a cup at a time, letting the sauce thicken between each addition.
- Once all of the cooking liquid has been added, whisk in the wine and cheese (if using), then stir in the pasta and remove from heat for ten minutes. This gives the pasta a chance to absorb some of the sauce.
- After the ten minutes, taste test the sauce and season with salt and pepper accordingly, then stir in the beans and return to the stove over high heat, stirring continuously until everything is hot again.
- Serve immediately topped with more chili flakes, cheese or toasted nuts (toasted almonds are divine with this) and the rest of that bottle of pinot grigio.