Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Flavor Best Described as Green

One of my favorite things about joining a CSA this year has been the abundance of produce that's new to me. Not that I've never heard of fava beans, but I hadn't ever worked with them before, and all I really knew is that they needed to be shelled twice. So when I got a pound of fresh fava beans in my CSA share a couple of weeks ago, I turned to twitter and asked how other people eat them. Kate mentioned they pair well with pecorino, and Adam had been asking about when we could make fresh pasta again, so one thing led to another, and this is what we ended up with.

Fresh pasta, lightly sauteed spring onions, barely-blanched favas, a very generous dose of black pepper and a flurry of pecorino romano. The flavor of a fava is best described, I think, as green. The grassy flavor is offset by the bite of pepper, so don't skimp, and the pecorino's nuttiness rounds the whole thing out. If you can track down some fresh favas, give this a try!
Pasta with Fava Beans, Spring Onion, and Pecorino
I encourage you to try making your own pasta (I learned it via the Real Epicurean), but if you're not DIY inclined, try this with one of the whole wheat pasta varieties available, the nutty flavor would make a nice duet with the pecorino, I think.
fresh pasta, enough for two people (200 g flour + 2 eggs), or dried pasta
1 lb fava beans
1 spring sugar onion (or 1 small red onion), sliced
olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
pecorino romano cheese
Start a large pot of water boiling, and salt it well. You will use this to blanch the favas and cook the pasta.
Begin by removing the fava beans from the pods - you may have to snap the pods in half to get around the starchy bits and into the beans themselves. Blanch the beans in boiling water for just a couple of minutes, then remove using a spider or slotted spoon and plunge them into an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Drain after a couple of minutes, pop off the skins (this is the shelling twice part!) and set aside. Keep the pot of water boiling.
In a large sauce pan, sautee the onions in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat until softened and translucent. This should only take about five minutes, and if they start to brown, turn down the heat but don't worry about it!
Meanwhile, cook the pasta - if you're using fresh pasta, it will only need 2 minutes or so, if dried, follow the recommended time on the box. Once the pasta is cooked, use tongs to transfer it from the water into the pan with the onions. Whatever water is clinging to the pasta will just loosen up the dish a little bit.
Add a the drained favas and give it a stir, then let it all heat through. Season with salt and a lot of black pepper, and if it looks dry add another tablespoon of olive oil. Plate into two pasta bowls, then top with a generous snowfall of pecorino.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Books winner!

But first, the miracle of vegetables! Here is a shot of my "tumbling tom" tomato plant on June 25th.

And here is a picture of a RED tomato(!) on July 10. So far I've only had one cherry tomato, but he was sweet and delicious.
Speaking of delicious, the winner of my pro/am gourmet book giveaway, as generated by random.org is.... comment number three! Congratulations, Josh... and you are a brave man to buy bitter melon with no plans! Send me an email with your address and I'll get the books in the mail.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bright Pink Salad

Friday night, I faced a bowl of beets. I had roasted them a few days before on a kitchen binge, knowing I would be more likely to eat them if they were ready to go in the fridge.

I didn't have any grand plans for them, but Adam and I needed a snack before heading out for the evening, so I began to construct a salad of things I had around. Here is half a small red spring-sweet onion, sliced thinly.

There was a small block of feta in the cheese drawer, so I added that for tang., and handful of roughly chopped parsley for contrasting color.

Then I noticed the avocado, so ripe and perfect it just had to be used immediately. This is the one ingredient I wasn't sure about, but the cool creaminess was just different enough from the earthy beet flavor that the similar textures didn't fight each other in the bowl.

Finally, a palmful of pistachios for crunch and salt. I squeezed half a lime over the bowl for acidity, then I gave the bowl a gentle toss.

Aaah, beets: nature's paintbrush.

PS. Have you entered my most recent book give-away yet? One more day!

Bright Pink Salad
serves two as a snack or side

1 bunch beets, roasted* and chopped into bite sized chunks
1/2 small red onion, sliced thin
2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
handful flat-leaf parsley (or cilantro might be nice), chopped
1/2 avocado, diced
handful pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
juice of half a lime

Put beets, onion, feta, parsley, avocado and pistachio in a bowl, squeeze lime juice over all. Toss gently, then taste, add more lime if necessary.

*To roast beets: Preheat oven to 350F. Scrub beets and remove scraggly root ends and greens (reserve greens for another use). Do not peel (it will be easier once they're cooked), but quarter large beets, halve if small. In a large piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, toss the the beets with 3-4 Tablespoons olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Use your hands to be sure all pieces are coated, but then don't touch anything, because you'll have pink beet juice all over you and that. stuff. stains. Fold the edges of the foil over to form a packet, place packet on a cookie sheet in case of leaks, and bake for an hour. After an hour, carefully open the packet to let some steam escape, then return it to the oven for another 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool, then using a paper towel, slide skins off beets. Store in the fridge with any accumulated juices and remaining oil until ready to use. Beets will keep, roasted about 5 days.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Currant Cakes (plus a winner and MORE books!)

I went up to the market at Government Center on Wednesday around noon, looking for sour cherries. I had plans to start a liqueur. I found myself at the booth for Silverbrook Farms from Dartmouth, where I was drawn in by some lovely (purple!) spring onions. The farmer had some raspberries, but no cherries, so as I handed over my cash for the onions, I asked if he knew whether anyone at the market with cherries. He pointed me in the direction of the Keown Orchard booth (they did have cherries!), but then he asked if I would like to try the currants. I put a tiny red berry in my mouth and it exploded in a burst of tart, vaguely citrusy pink juice that actually made me say aloud "Whoa!" After a discussion of what they could be used for (muddled into drinks, reduced into syrup or jam, baked goods). I handed the man $3 and went on my merry way with a small carton of currants.

After a brief poll of the twitterverse, I decided on a batch of cakes. Well, cupcakes. Muffins? We ate them for dessert last night but then again for breakfast this morning, so I don't know what to call them. Anyway, I adapted this from Bea's recipe on La Tartine Gourmande, and next time I will almost certainly mix a few berries into the batter instead of just putting them on top, because they were such a nice foil to the sweetness of the cake that I wanted more! more! more!

And about that book giveaway! The random number generator has selected from 17 eligible comment the winner: number 7! Congratulations actionmoviegirl! Shoot me an email with your address (adriennebruno AT gmail DOT com) and I'll get your books in the mail. But wait, there's more!
Because I like you guys, and because I have a bookshelf that STILL needs clearing, here are two more books you can win. This time the theme is gourmets. One, the Amateur Gourmet Adam Roberts and the other, a professional gourmet - food critic and frequent Iron Chef America judge Jeffrey Steingarten. Leave a comment on this post by midnight (Boston time) on Tuesday, July 14th and I'll select a winner on Wednesday. To get you started: what weird food item have you bought with no plans on how to use it? And what did you end up doing with it? Now, about those cakes....

Red Currant Cakes
I used a small muffin tin with six regular sized cups in it, but if you only have a full sized muffin pan, fill the empty cups with water so they don't scorch in the oven.

1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup almond meal (pulverize some blanched almonds in a food processor if you don't have this on hand)
scant cup of sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
two eggs
large handful red currants
2 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled slightly

Preheat your oven to 350. Generously butter six muffin cups or line them with paper cupcake liners

In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, almond flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine. (I use a whisk because I'm a cheater and I hate sifting.) Beat the two eggs in a small bowl, then add them to the dry ingredients and stir gently with a wooden spoon. Before the eggs are completely combined, add the melted butter and stir just until it all comes together. If you're adding any currants to the batter, do so when you add the butter, but save some for the tops of the cakes.

Distribute the batter among six muffin cups, and gently press a tablespoon or more of currants on top of the batter. I started baking these for 25 minutes but I lost count of how many times I added five more minutes to the timer because they were still jiggly. I would start checking them at half an hour, but the may take as long as 45 minutes. Bake until the tops are risen and a thin knife inserted in the center just has a crumb or two clinging to it. Serve with ice cream for dessert or jam for breakfast.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fourth of July + Book Winner + More Books

It's always so nice when dinner greets you with a friendly wave, eh? As usual, lobster was on the menu for the Fourth of July feast-ivities. We also ate some baby carrot salad (recipe via 101 cookbooks, I added feta and tossed it with quinoa).

Oh, and I made coffee-chocolate cake.

And some sweet and fluffy cloverleaf rolls.

We also tried out the jet skis, got caught in a rain storm, played cribbage, and ran into people playing cribbage. All in all a delightful way to spend the holiday weekend!

But now we're here to find out about the winner of my first book giveaway! I used random.org to generate a random winner because, well, it's 10pm and I'm here by myself. Also, I'm having a pretty bad hair day so I don't think you want to see pictures of me drawing a name out of a hat. I can't figure out how to show you how it works, so you're going to have to trust me: of the 13 eligible comments (I didn't include my own comments, people who commented after midnight, or people who said they didn't want the book), the random number generator spit out the number...... TWO! Congratulations, Aimee, you're the lucky winner of a paperback copy of Julie and Julia! Shoot me an email with your address and I'll get it in the mail.

What's that? You wish YOU had won the book? Well, let's see. How about I sweeten the deal a little bit? We'll go the nonfiction route, but this time it'll be a pair of books:

The United States of Arugula, by David Kamp, an essential history of the gourmet revolution in the US, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, which if you haven't heard of by now... well, that's all the more reason for you to read it. I'll pick a winner at random on Friday. Two books for the low, low price of a comment left on this post before midnight (Boston time) on Thursday, July 9th. I want to know: what was the best thing you ate this weekend?