Spring Menu by Daniel Costa

Fresh fava bean and spring pea crostini with pecorino, mint and pine nuts

An ideal canapé with a glass of prosecco.

  • 2 rustic loaves (Tree Stone Bakery) or 1 baguette
  • 1 c fresh green peas
  • 1 c fresh fava beans, removed from pod and shelled
  • 5 T grated pecorino
  • 5 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ c pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic

In preparation, roast the pine nuts in a 375°F oven until golden, about 8 minutes, toss every few minutes to avoid burning. Watch closely. Blanch peas in salted boiling water for 1 minute and place in ice water to stop cooking process, drain well.

Using a mortar and pestle (or food processor), place peas, fava beans, mint, olive oil and a pinch of salt in your mortar. Crush the ingredients until course. Add the pecorino cheese, another pinch of salt and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice.

Toast your sliced bread until golden, remove from oven. Cut piece of garlic in half, rub the inside of garlic on the bread. Spoon desired amount of green pea mix on the toasted bread, top with roasted pine nuts, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a crack of black pepper.

Raw asparagus salad with bresaola and parmigiano

Really fresh asparagus does not need to be cooked, and offers an interesting contrast in texture.

  • 24 pieces Bresaola, thinly sliced
  • 16 spears asparagus, tough base snapped off
  • 4 T high quality extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Lay the bresaola on individual plates or a platter.

Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, shave the asparagus into long ribbons. Thinly slice pieces that you cannot get with the peeler. Make a vinaigrette with the oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Check for balance. Toss the asparagus in a bowl with the dressing. Mound a pile of the asparagus in the centre of the bresaola. Using the peeler, shave pieces of Parmigiano over the bresaola. Drizzle with more olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper.

Serves 4, generously.

Bucatini with ramps, guanciale and black pepper

  • 500 g bucatini (I prefer the Rustichella d’Abruzzo found at Italian Centre)
  • 200 g guanciale or pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 20 small ramps cleaned, white stalk and greens separated
  • ½ lemon, zested and juiced
  • ¼ c pecorino romano, grated
  • 1½ T coarsely ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the bucatini. Cook the bucatini 1-2 minutes less than the package instructions.

Heat a little olive oil in a deep large pan over medium high heat. Add the guanciale. Cook until just golden, add the black pepper and white stalks of the ramps, fry for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Add a ladle of pasta cooking water to stop the cooking.

Just before the pasta is cooked, return the pan containing the guanciale to high heat. Add the ramp greens. The greens should just start wilting. Using tongs, add the bucatini to the pan, add another small ladle of pasta water. Cook over high heat, constantly stirring until the sauce is just coating the pasta (about 1 minute). Remove from heat. Stir in the pecorino, zest and lemon juice.

Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Slow-roasted rolled pork belly

This can also be served the next day thinly sliced between crusty bread with a little wild arugula, olive oil and lemon.

  • 2 kg pork belly, gland removed
  • 3 T fennel seeds
  • 2 T black pepper
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 T kosher salt
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 btl dry white wine

The night before: Place the pork belly fat side down on a clean work surface. Lightly score the flesh of the belly ensuring you do not cut through. In a mortar and pestle: crush the fennel seeds until fine. Crush the black pepper until coarse. Crush the garlic into a paste. Finely chop the rosemary. Mix all these ingredients together with the olive oil. Rub the ingredients all over the scored flesh side of the belly. Rub for 2 minutes, then place in a large container and allow to sit in the fridge over night.

Day of: Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Place the belly fat side down on a clean work surface. Starting from the least fatty side of the belly, roll into a tight cylinder. Using butcher twine, tie the belly every 1½ inches to ensure even cooking.

Place the belly on a roasting rack in a large roasting pan. Generously salt and pepper all sides. Add the entire bottle of white wine to the bottom of the pan (do not pour over the belly). Place the belly in the oven for 10 minutes (it will get smoky). Carefully remove the pan from the oven. Wrap tightly with tin foil. Turn the heat down to 275ºF and return the pan to the oven. Cook for 3½ hours. Remove the foil from the pan. Turn the oven up to 450ºF, cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the belly is dark golden. Remove from the oven, lightly cover with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Remove the string from the belly. Cut into thick pieces, spoon the juice from the bottom of the pan over the sliced belly. Serve with braised greens and slowly cooked white beans or roasted potatoes and arugula salad.

Artichoke risotto

This is a very basic recipe. You can replace the artichokes with your favorite spring vegetables (asparagus, fava beans and spring peas work great). You can add many different elements to this dish, but I find the simplicity is perfect for spring. Another favourite way to eat risotto is the next day where you can roll and stuff it with fresh cheese into arancini and fry in a non stick pan with olive oil until crisp.

  • 6 c chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 T unsalted butter
  • 1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 c arborio or carnaroli rice
  • 2 c dry white wine
  • 8 baby artichokes (or 4 large), peeled, trimmed of their leaves, choke removed and stored in water with juice from 2 lemons
  • 200 g parmigiano reggiano, grated
  • 4 T freshly squeezed lemon
  • ¼ bunch Italian parsley picked over
  • kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Bring the broth to a boil. In a heavy bottomed pot, heat 2 T of butter and olive oil. Over medium high heat add the onion and celery, season with a pinch of salt and cracked pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, add the garlic, cook for an additional minute. Add the rice, stir with a wooden spoon, cook for about 1 minute stirring frequently.

Add the white wine, turn the heat down slightly, cook until the wine has evaporated. Add a large ladle of boiling broth. Continue cooking. Once the broth evaporates add another ladle or 2 of broth.

Meanwhile, cut the cleaned artichokes into ¼ inch slices. Add the artichokes to the risotto. Continue cooking the risotto by adding broth and frequently stirring gently. Once the risotto has completed cooking, about 20-25 minutes total (the rice should have a slight give but no crunch), remove from the heat.

Add the remaining butter, parsley and parmigiano to the risotto, gently stir to incorporate. Add the lemon. Season to taste with parmigiano, salt and lemon. The risotto should have the consistency of loose creamy porridge, not mashed potatoes. If the risotto is too thick, add a little more broth. Allow the risotto to sit for 2 minutes. Divide among 4 plates, grate a little more parmigiano on top, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a crack of black pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Polenta and pistachio cake with grappa and berries

  • 225 g unsalted butter, room temp
  • 250 g shelled pistachios
  • 100 g regular ground polenta
  • 3 lemons, zested
  • 2 oranges, zested
  • 250 g caster (berry) sugar
  • 6 eggs large, separated
  • 300 g fresh ricotta, room temperature
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • grappa
  • Fresh berries from your local farmers market

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Grease and line a 10” spring form pan.

Coarsely chop the pistachios with a food processor or smash in a bag with a rolling pin. Place in a bowl with the polenta.

Beat the butter, sugar and citrus together until pale. Add egg yolks 1 at a time until incorporated. Fold in the pistachio mixture.

Mix the ricotta with a fork until smooth. Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the pistachio mixture followed by the ricotta.

Spoon the cake batter into the tin. Bake for 45 minutes or test by insertng a skewer in the middle of the cake which should come out clean.

Allow cake to cool in the cake pan for 15 minutes. Turn out.

Serve the cake with berries and a drizzle of grappa.

Serves 10.


Bresaola: Air-cured beef originally from the Valtellina region of Italy. The Italian Centre Shop carries an excellent bresaola made in Uruguay. Canmore’s Valbella Foods makes a delicious bündnerfleisch, similar to bresaola.

Guanciale: An unsmoked Italian bacon made from pig’s jowl or cheeks. available at the Italian Centre Shop.

Ramps: Perennial wild onion available seasonally at August Organics (Old Strathcona Farmers Market).

Pork Belly: Irving’s Pork, or order through the Italian Centre Shop.