June 28, 2012
Fava beans made an appearance at the Boulder Farmers’ Market last weekend, so naturally I snagged some from Red Wagon Farm. Last year I made a great fava bean pesto, as well as a dish with favas, couscous, mushrooms, and potatoes. But this year I discovered something even better (and to my surprise, much simpler to make!).
I decided to use the fava beans in some kind of sauce on the Garlic Chive Pappardelle I picked up from Pappardelle’s. I did some searching online to check out what flavors went well with favas and was intrigued by a purée made with cream. Of course there was no way I would be using cream in my recipe (way too much fat), but what about Greek yogurt? A few more searches turned up some hits, plus mentions of pecorino cheese, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, and Moroccan spices.
I found myself going back and forth on which of the above to use, and not really making much progress, so I figured I would just start by puréeing the favas, and add stuff until it tasted good. So I put my favas in the processor with a bit of yogurt and some chicken stock, and puréed it. I added just a bit of salt and…Oh, My! Wow. It tasted incredible. Really? That was all that was needed? Fantastic! Granted fava beans are a bit laborious to prepare themselves, but for this result they were very well worth it! I sautéed a little chopped green (well, they were purple to be honest) onions and garlic in olive oil, then combined it with the pasta and the purée. Outstanding! (And nearly fat-free – only about 2 grams in a cup of purée!)
Garlic Chive Pappardelle with Fava Bean Purée
serves 4 (double for more*)
8 oz pasta
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
5-7 green (or small spring) onions, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
about 1+1/4 lbs fava bean pods
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
3 Tbsp chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/4 tsp salt
* I have a small food processor. I’m thinking if you have a larger one, you may want to double this recipe just because the quantity of a single recipe might not be enough for the blade to reach!
First prepare the fava beans: Rinse the pods, and then remove the individual beans from the pods. Drop the beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes, and then remove them with a slotted spoon, and put them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking. Once they have cooled, peel off the outer covering of the fava beans (you can usually just rip the end and then squeeze the beans out). The resulting beans should be a vivid green color at this point. Here are some pictures of the process:
Next, make the purée: In a food processor, purée the fava beans, yogurt, stock, and salt until smooth. Set aside.
Start bringing the pasta water to a boil, and then heat the olive oil on medium low in a small sauté pan. (The sequencing here isn’t time-critical, you just want to finish sautéing before the pasta is done.) Once the oil is warm, sauté the onions for 30-60 seconds, then add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant, for just about 15-30 seconds. Remove from heat once done.
Drain the pasta, then return it to the now empty pasta pot, adding the purée and the onions and garlic. Turn the heat to low, and stir, just until the purée is evenly distributed. This should be enough to warm up the purée.
June 22, 2012
Sometimes (usually some amount of time after the fact), disastrous cooking results can be pretty funny. Fortunately most of my less than stellar results are still edible, but there have been a few that well…weren’t.
Crunchily Al Dente Pasta
This one is a simple mistake – anyone could make it early on in their pasta cooking career. All you have to do is undercook the pasta in the attempt to stop before you get to the mushy point. But I have to say, it had a big effect on me. Eating pasta with a tiny bit of a crunch to it was really, really nasty. Almost to the fingernails on the chalkboard point. As a result, when I take pasta off the stove, once in a while I fear I may have not let it go long enough, and I kind of get the heebie jeebies. Fortunately, that hasn’t occurred again, and I’ve happily eaten nicely Al Dente pasta since then.
Seriously Misshapen, Mysteriously Textured Rye Bread
My dad was a big bread baker when I was a kid, and he taught me how to make bread when I was still in grade school. I wasn’t too bad – I had some decent successes with white bread, rolls, and even made some good crackers. My wheat bread was a little more…dense, but still tasty. But then one day, I ventured into dangerous territory, and attempted to make rye bread. Rye flour is quite robust. It’s a seriously heavy flour. I clearly didn’t make enough adjustments to compensate, and the result was so very far from desirable. You know that scene in E.T where the government has captured him, and he’s dreadfully ill, with sort of a nasty grayish-brown pall to his rather strange looking skin? Well, yeah. That’s what my bread looked like. A hard, heavy, grayish-brown tribute loaf to the sick E.T. And it tasted nasty. Hard Tack would have been an improvement.
The Cranberry Bread That Just Wouldn’t Bake
This mishap involved a quick bread instead of a yeast bread. Way (way) back in first grade, during the holiday season, I copied two recipes from a book our teacher read to us onto a sheet of the light brown paper first graders used to write on back in those days, and proudly brought them home. One was for cranberry cookies, and the other was for cranberry bread. My mom made the cranberry bread for years, with wonderful success. Then after I moved to Colorado, I made it a couple of times and it turned out fairly well, perhaps a bit wetter than it did at lower altitude. But one day, my husband and I set about to make some, and for whatever strange reason, it didn’t seem to be baking in the middle. The recipe called for 50-60 minutes in the oven, but even after 70 minutes, a knife was coming out completely covered with moist batter. So I kept adding 10 more minutes and checking it. Over and over. I plead with it to bake. Alas, to no avail. After literally two hours, we finally gave up and took it out of the oven, letting it cool on a rack. The loaf was probably 2/3 the height it should have been, and when we cut it open, it was still partially unbaked. Sort of a cranberry batter inside a crust. We cut it into slices and let it ‘cure’ in the dry Colorado air. Fortunately, it still tasted awesome! But it was a tad more like cranberry bread pudding than we desired. We still weren’t sure what happened, but my guesses would be we left out the baking soda and baking powder or used too much orange juice, or these were the juiciest cranberries ever.
The Great Pureéd Onion Unpleasantness of 2007
Probably the worst cooking disaster I’ve had was when I tried something new while making a simple curry dish I had made dozens of times before. It was an extremely simple recipe with finely chopped onions, tomatoes, chickpeas, plain yogurt, and spices. To save time (this was before my knife skills class when I learned how to quickly chop an onion. Back in the old days it took me forever!), I decided I would chop the onions in the food processor. In past incarnations I probably didn’t cook the onions quite long enough, so they were a bit more toothy than I liked, so while I was using the processor, I decided to REALLY process them. When I opened the processor, there was a nasty, acrid, biting smell. Instead of abandoning at that point (which would have been the sage thing to do), I decided to keep going. And no matter how much curry powder I added, the overwhelming taste of the dish was the nastiness of the now mutant-tasting onions. It was one of those tastes where no matter what you do, you can’t get rid of it. Eating something else, drinking something, even brushing your teeth didn’t quite get rid of it. So now I shy away from ANY recipe that tells me to put onions in the food processor.
What are some cooking disasters that you’ve experienced? I always think the worse it is, the better the story!
June 19, 2012
One year ago today, I decided to start documenting my cooking experiences, so I’d have a record of things I’ve tried, what I liked, what I’d change next time, and the like. I put some thought into how to document it, and figured a blog would be a good method – easier to search (and harder to spill on) than a journal or something.
I didn’t plan to tell too many people about it. But then I told my book club, and linked to it on my Facebook page. A few people started reading it, I got a few mentions on other sites or in emails, and some nice comments on my posts…and I was hooked. I started following other food blogs, met some fellow local food bloggers, and have attended a few food-blogger events. It’s turned out to be so fun to share my love of food with others!
Searching for interesting topics for my posts has led me to try new vegetables from the Farmers’ Market, new heirloom beans and grains, and new techniques that I might not have otherwise tried. And it’s been fun to blog about restaurants we try when on vacation, and the farm dinners and food tours that we’ve taken. And now it’s my blog’s first birthday! (I bet you already guessed that from the ‘one year ago today’ part, didn’t you?)
I look forward to another year of exploring new foods, recipes, dining activities and restaurants, and sharing them on my blog. Happy Birthday, Blog!
June 15, 2012
Ah, garlic scape season. I LOVE garlic scapes. The tops of garlic plants, which much be removed so that the plant can focus its energy on the bulb part, these former discards (at least in this country) have become quite the Farmers’ Market darling. And with good reason – they are very versatile, and probably one of the coolest, funkiest looking produce items you can find.
They are much milder than garlic cloves, and there are many simple ways to prepare them. You can chop them up to use in place of green onions, blanch them for a minute and then cut into bite size pieces to use as garlicky green-bean like veggies, or add them chopped to soups. But at least once a season I like to use them to make pesto! I guess some people use the garlic scapes in place of basil, but I make mine with both the scapes and basil.
In the interest of cutting fat a bit, and just to be different, I use a combination of pine nuts and pumpkin seeds. I also tend to use ALOT less olive oil than most recipes for pesto call for. Feel free to increase the amount if you’d like.
I wanted to include the following picture, just because I thought it looked really cool. One of the most enjoyable things for me about cooking with food fresh from the Farmers’ Market is the vibrancy of the ingredients. I love color, so I find myself just stopping and staring at things every once in a while because they are so pretty with spring and summer produce!
My husband felt that the pesto had a very ‘green’ taste, with a bit of an iron aftertaste, but I really enjoy the slightly sharper edge. There are a couple of things you can try if you want to make it a bit more mild. First, you can blanch the garlic scapes briefly and then shock them in a waterbath, which will make them much more mild. Second, using more olive oil will mellow the flavor out quite a bit.
Garlic Scape Pesto
makes pasta sauce for 12-16 oz of pasta
10 garlic scapes*
1 spring garlic stalk (or 1 clove common garlic)
2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 Tbsp pine nuts
1/2 c packed basil leaves
3/4 oz grated pecorino romano (or parmesan)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 to 6 Tbsp olive oil (the more, the milder)
3 Tbsp chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 tsp salt
Chop the scapes into 1 inch segments. Put the scapes, garlic, pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, and basil leaves into a food processor, and process. Add the lemon juice and stock gradually to assist in the processing. Add the cheese, 2 Tbsp of olive oil and the salt, process until smoothish, and taste. Adjust the olive oil and salt to your liking. Serve on pasta.
* If you want a bit milder taste, blanch the scapes in boiling water for about 30-60 seconds, then plunge them into an ice bath to stop the cooking.
June 8, 2012
I’ve been wanting to get some pictures of the display cases in Piece, Love & Chocolate since I first went there last year. Recently my husband and I stopped by after dinner to get some cake to go, and I finally got some halfway decent ones.
Featuring chocolates made both in-house and from various other artisan chocolatiers, Piece, Love & Chocolate has some of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen. Such vibrant colors, encasing such delectable flavor combinations. It’s so incredibly difficult to narrow the choices down to just a few at a time whenever I stop by. (I like to limit myself to two or three. Well, I don’t LIKE it, but it’s necessary for caloric reasons.)
This section of the case is my favorite. Just look at the purple, red, burgundy and green chocolates. Aren’t they beyond gorgeous? And the little turtles with golden shells – so cool!
Here’s another area with some of my favorites. Check out the blue ones and the little green turtles!
You can get a small preview of the flavors available from their chocolate menu. Any stop here to pick up a small sampling will make you smile for the rest of the day.
In addition to having gorgeous truffles and bonbons, they also carry a dizzying selection of artisan chocolate bars for serious chocolate connoisseurs. (One bar that they carry is that of Ritual Chocolate, a company where I had the privilege of taking a private tour for local food bloggers).
Piece, Love & Chocolate also has a wonderful pastry case with gorgeous looking (and tasting) cakes and cheesecakes, made in-house. We took this lovely piece of chocolate salted caramel cake home with us that night:
Another very unique offering of Piece, Love & Chocolate is a variety of technique classes. They have classes for making chocolates, cakes, eclairs, chocolate sauces, and on and on. Yum!
I highly recommend checking this place out. It’s located on the west end of Pearl Street near Nick-N-Willy’s.