FavaHummus

Fava Hummus - may 10, 2013

I am certain that the super-powered seeds Jack (of the beanstalk)’s mother threw out her kitchen window were favas. While some might question the wisdom of trading an entire cow (even if she is old, like me) for a handful of beans, there is real truth to this tale beyond the giants, gold, magic hens and beanstalks of unusual size: legumes can be a delicious source of protein and some varieties are really easy to grow, in the right location.

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MothersDayDinner

Love Your Mother: Lamb, Carrots and Fava Salad - may 11, 2011

This year I made my desires for Mother's Day known well in advance: no gifts, just a day at home in the garden and a big dinner, cooked as a family.  It was delicious, and I got gifts anyway - three of Andy Goldsworthy's books, much loved by my kids after we watched his Rivers and Tides together a week or two back.

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SalmonCakes
 
 Salmon Cakes - april 26, 2011

I've been struggling with pan frying cakes and patties of all varieties for a long time now.  They never turn out right - sometimes they stick, sometimes they fall apart, sometimes they burn to a crisp. But tonight I asked my husband for advice, knowing that he has a tendency to remember everything he reads (but nothing I say) and that he read Russ Parson's How to Read a French Fry a thousand years ago when it first came out.  Parson's book is all about kitchen science, and  I seem to remember it deals with sticky patties.

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SpicyAsianSlaw
 
Spicy Asian Slaw - february 26, 2011

In the past couple of weeks we have eaten at least five cabbages. Winter, or spring in some places, is cabbage season. They are beautiful in the garden, gathering dew with dusty hues of plum, pale and bright green. And they are great in salads of all sorts, stir fried and steamed. But sometimes I'm just not sure what to do with them all.

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MietteCake

Birthday Crab Rolls - july 2, 2010

My daughter turned five years old yesterday, and what a celebration it was. She had presents from her Grandparents in the morning , singing and candle blowing with a fake cake at school in the afternoon, then dinner with real cake and more presents in the evening. Tomorrow she has another birthday bash (to which we seem to have invited over seventy guests) and still more presents arriving in the mail from her other Grandmother.

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Orecchiette
 Quick Orecchiette with Green Things - june 28, 2010

Orecchiette is fast becoming my first stop lazy dinner, one step short of pesto with Trader Joe's dried tortellini, which is the one my kids will always eat under any circumstance. Pesto pasta is what we leave for the babysitter to cook, the one I am teaching my daughter to prepare for her little brother, or perhaps vice versa, as soon as he or she is old enough to operate the stove without needing to call the fire department. I recently taught my four year old how to turn the stove off - so she can quiet the tea kettle while I am indisposed - and consider that a major step toward dinner independence.

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Harissa
 Grilled Chicken with Harissa and Mint - april 21, 2010

Harissa is a fabulous thing. I recently had some with couscous, when I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at Chez Panisse. I love harissa because I can make it myself, put it in a little clip-top jar with a quarter inch of oil covering the top and keep it in the fridge for a thousand years. Its been so long since I made harissa that I don't even remember what is in it. You don't have to make it from scratch, though, its easy enough to buy at a middle eastern grocery or probably at Andronicos or Rainbow. But if you happen to have a food processor and access to Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, you can make it pretty easily too.

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Favas  

No eggs for egg salad today, after yesterday's debacle.  

I love fava beans.  To me, they are the harbinger of spring.  Yes, they are a pain to prepare - first you shell the beans, then you boil them really briefly, then you skin the beans - but I find it a reasonable tradeoff. Favas start showing up at the market around the same time as shelling peas, asparagus and lilacs. Lilacs are my absolute favorite, except for  Lily of the Valley, yet another springtime superstar of the garden. I would gladly trade a year's worth of chocolate to get both of those to flower every spring in my yard.

Pasta Primavera, on the other hand, I have mixed feelings for. It is one of those foods usually more fatty and salty than good, and can range anywhere from comforting to frightening, depending on who makes it for me. But this one is from Canal House Cooking again, and is both a joy to cook and to eat. Like the name implies, it actually uses young spring vegetables, not old crufters you might find at the grocery store in January.

Its ham and spaghetti appeal to kids and manly meat eaters, and the veggies aren't too hard to separate out, should someone deem them unfit for consumption. The only caveat to easy assembly are the favas and peas. I recruit my kids to help shell them. Its the one time I encourage them to shred food, so they don't mind helping out. Getting started on those early on in the day is a good idea, they can sit out on the counter just fine and will benefit from a few minutes of attention here and there.

Today was the perfect spring day - I made dinner with the kitchen doors open to the deck and wandered down to pick mint from the garden. Lots of sun, not too hot. Hopefully tomorrow I'll make it out there again to start some seedlings, but that is looking doubtful. I hope the weather holds until Thursday. 

My bad decisions of yesterday were replaced by plain old bad luck today.  We managed to make it to the Garden Railway at the Conservatory of Flowers, which was very cool - a miniature railroad featuring city landmarks all built of recycled trash - but the fog machine was broken, so the 11:15 fogging I had promised the kids didn't happen.  Instead, we identified and counted the kitchen gadgets used to build the Ferry Plaza building. Then this evening at dinner, I managed to break two corkscrews while attempting to open a bottle of riesling.  Luckily, I found my old swiss army knife while cleaning out my top dresser drawer this past weekend - and it did the job just fine. 

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Pasta Primavera (adapted from Canal House Cooking volume 3):

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup diced smoked ham (if you have kids who will like this part, double it)

1 cup fava beans, shelled, then dropped for 30 seconds into boiling water, then peeled. 

1 cup shelled peas

1 bunch chopped thin asparagus

1 stalk green garlic

1 pound spaghetti

1 Tablespoon tomato paste 

A few finely chopped fresh mint leaves

Grated pecorino romano cheese

For starters, you can prep the fava beans and peas in advance.  The peas just need to be shelled.  The favas need to be shelled (the easiest way is to break the end off the bean pod, squeeze out a bean, then break it again to get to the next bean, squeeze it out, and so on).  Then drop them for 30 seconds into a pot of boiling water.  Drain them and dump them into a bowl of ice water.  Then peel them (the easiest way is to pinch a bit of the skin off, then just squeeze the bean so it pops out of the pinched spot).

When its time to make dinner, bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium heat.  The pasta takes about ten minutes to cook, so don't start it until fifteen or so minutes before you want to eat.  Instead, turn the heat down to simmer once it boils, so that your water is ready to heat up quickly when you are ready for it.  Put about two Tablespoons of olive oil in a large, low sided pot or pan over medium-low heat.  When it is hot (it will shimmer, but should not smoke) add the ham.  Stir it around for a couple minutes until it starts to brown just a little bit, then throw in the green garlic and peas.  Add about 1/2 cup of the boiling pasta water, stir it up, and let the peas simmer in it for five to ten minutes, until they seem done to you. Then add the favas and asparagus and cook it for about five minutes more.  Remove the pan from heat and don't put a lid on it.  

If you haven't already, put the pasta on to cook.  Turn the heat back up so that the water boils vigorously, then pour it in and mix it up right away, to prevent clumping.  When it is done, drain it and then put it back into the pot.  Add the tomato paste and about three more Tablespoons of olive oil and stir to coat.  Then add the vegetables and ham, along with any pan juices, to the spaghetti and stir it together.  Salt and pepper to taste. Serve into bowls, sprinkle with the fresh mint and grate some cheese over the top.

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Asparagus 

Mmm...tasty!

 What is a home without tequila?  As I found this afternoon, perfectly fine, as long as there is vodka around. The margarita recipe I posted last friday works well with either one.

Today I had the honor of meeting Novella Carpenter, author of the book Farm City about her adventures in urban agriculture in Oakland, CA.  She was great, even more Farmy than I had imagined she'd be.  As she likes to explain in her book, she is not the first to raise a garden and livestock in an inner city.  Its not that uncommon in other countries, and even some parts of the United States. Today, I'm told, Detroit has the most active urban farming community in our country.  Nonetheless, her story of breaking ground for a farm in Oakland's Ghost Town neighborhood where she raises poultry, rabbits and pigs is pretty impressive.  

As for my garden, I took the big step of planting our pre-sprouted bean seeds today.  if you remember from a day or two back, the seeds have been growing in paper towels as my efforts to settle them into the ground were thwarted by uncooperative children.  Today I finally dispensed with my need for family planting and planted them by myself.  Naturally there was much shrieking and rending of garments when my children learned the fate of their seeds, but luckily I had a few left for them to drop into holes in the ground.  And now, thank goodness, it is done.  

For the second time this month we ate an asparagus and pea salad, from Canal House Cooking's spring issue. It is so good that I plan to make it again before the season ends.  We also grilled salmon, my college pal Jenny Nelson's recipe, that Jason and I first ate years ago on the east coast in their wonderful garden. This spring pairing is great, and for the kids (there were five - my friend Shelley and her munchkins joined us for dinner) there was also a side of buttered pasta, some sort of twisty noodles they were very fond of. I had some too, really not a bad addition to the meal.

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Asparagus and Pea Salad (adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume 3):

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches thin asparagus,  sliced crosswise after tough bottoms have been trimmed off.

1 cup fresh peas, shelled

4 skinny spring onions, thinly sliced

1 small head butter lettuce, washed and chopped

8 pieces cooked bacon, chopped

1 handful fresh mint leaves, chopped

pepper & salt

Bring a pot of water to boil, and toss the peas in for two minutes, then the sliced asparagus.  Boil for two more minutes, then dump the pot into a colander in the sink.  Then immerse the vegetables in a big bowl of ice water to stop them from further cooking.  Put the lettuce, onions, mint and bacon in a salad bowl, then add the peas and asparagus when they are cool.

Put some water on in a kettle to boil, keeping it warm until the rest of your meal is almost ready.  At that time, heat the water back to a boil and mix 1/4 cup of hot water with the parmesan and olive oil.  Whisk it until smooth.  Add the pepper and some salt.  Pour this dressing over your salad, toss it and serve.

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Jenny Nelson's Grilled Salmon:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon honey

fresh wild caught salmon filet for four

Put the olive oil, soy sauce and brown sugar into a teeny-tiny pot over low heat (I use a metal measuring cup).  Bring it to a gentle simmer, then add the butter, ginger and honey. Stir it all together, then let the sauce simmer until it thickens, so that it is not terribly runny any longer. Remove it from heat.

Lay each piece of salmon skin side down on a sheet of tinfoil, and fold up the edges to make a sort of boat around the fish. This will hold the sauce in place, so the tinfoil edges should be close to the fish edge, and at least as tall.  

Heat the grill, and when it is medium heat, put each fish boat on the grill, and brush the sauce on with a pastry brush.  Try to divide it equally among the fish pieces.

Close the grill lid and wait five or ten minutes.  Then check on the fish - it will be a paler pink color and opaque looking when it is ready.  You can cut into the middle of the fish with a knife to see how its done and judge for yourself.  Bright pink is undercooked, but you don't want to cook the fish so much that even the middle is overcooked, so a completely opaque middle section is too cooked.  When the fish is ready, you should be able to scoop it off the foil, leaving the skin behind, with a spatula.

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