Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Learning about Favas (and a Spring Pea-Fava Pesto)

Once, there was a recipe that looked oh-so-very-tasty. It was a pasta with a fava pesto sauce. Fava beans were beautifully photographed in the half-shell. Scattered across the brown paper bag they were purchased in, the green, slightly fuzzy, pods had been discarded and a steaming plate of pasta was in the forefront. I made it within days. And it sucked. I mean, it was so bitter even copious amounts of cheese (my usual fix-it) left me feeling pretty disappointed.

Still, ever curious about the world of favas, I did some asking around. Illumination my friends, pure fava illumination. There is a double shell. Yep. Now, if you want to eat them raw, snack-style, the double shell need not be removed. In fact, one doesn't even notice it. But if you want to cook them, even slightly, the outer jacket of the fava bean has got to go. The way to do this is get a pot of water boiling, and in the meantime, start popping the fava beans out of the pods. Then toss in the pot and boil for 1 minute. Have a bowl of ice water ready for when you scoop them out of the pot. You want to stop the cooking or it will be too difficult to peel. After cooled, strain from the water, and pop the bean in half to reveal the inner bean. This is what you want. The outer jackets can be tossed.


Now that you've done a bit of kitchen soul-searching to find your inner bean, feel free to stick it all in a food processor and mix up into a pesto. I had some fresh peas around, so I boiled them for about 5 minutes (along with the inner fava beans) to do a pesto with some basil and Pecorino cheese. It was really nice on top some simple fish fillets (with the old peas 'n carrots stand-by, which, at times, can fit the bill perfectly.) But the next day, mixed into a pot of some perfectly al dente-ed spaghetti, it turned transcendent. Now, unless you are deathly allergic to them, run, don't walk, and go get yourself some favas!

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Enthusiastic Eaters and an Artichoke Frittata

Cooking can be as simple or as complex as you make it. A long rambling recipe can be such a joy to read and an inspiration with scrumptious results. A quick post-market lunch of hand-made tortellini and mushrooms picked lovingly by the same elderly man who sold them to you can be so ultimately satisfying in such a different way.

What we sometimes forget, however, is the tremendous impact of the people whom we are cooking for. It's almost like dating. First, you have the compatibility factors. How much salt, any dietary restrictions, and other personal preferences. But then comes something less tangible. Chemistry, I believe it is often called. It transcends the actual contents of the meal and touches a much more personal level. You can cook and eat with someone who likes the exact same things as you, but something just doesn't click. Maybe they are too critical, or not critical enough. Maybe they desire a formal presentation and you are more of a pan-to-plate kind of a cook. Whatever the case, finding good eating companions can sometimes be more of an accomplishment than tracking down an authentic truffle oil. 

 It's true I've not posted a recipe in quite some time. Maybe I was lacking the company of enthusiastic eaters. Or maybe I just got buried under life like so many of us tend to get.

Today I had a moment, an artichoke frittata brunch moment to be precise, in which to pause and be grateful for new friends who are very enthusiastic eaters. And this is something to appreciate.  

(Although, seeing as it is mother's day, I wish I lived close enough to share brunch with you, mum!)

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