Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Fava Saga

"Bag o favas in office frig" read the text from my friend Kristin, an invitation to help myself to the fava beans she had been shelling for days on end. Kristin was in the midst of a fava saga - she had inherited something like a 10-gallon trash bag full of the beans in their thick, puffy pods (about 20 pounds) as a result of another friend's garden generosity. Now if you know favas... they are a lot of work for very little return, to put it mildly. Not only do you have to free the beans from their outer pod, they have an inner pod as well that requires parboiling in order to remove. It's labor intensive, and Kristin, having socked away more than ten cups of the doubly-shelled beans in her freezer, was done. The remainder of her favas had to find a home, so naturally I jumped at them. I love me some favas.

So I strolled down to the office frig, and picked up what I can only describe as the largest assembly of fava beans I'd ever seen in my life outside of the farmers market - a mini trash bag, if you will, full of the green nuggets. It was like striking gold, especially since Kristin had done all of the round-one shelling. But my work was still cut out for me. I spent hours and hours and hours that evening parboiling and shelling my little heart out, and came away the proud owner of about six cups of my own finished product. Most went into the freezer, but what goes around comes around: I happened to be heading to a dinner party at Kristin's house the very next day... my contribution? A salad featuring fava beans, of course!

Now the salad came about in an interesting way as well. The week prior to receiving my fava bounty, my friend Carolyn had forwarded me a link to a Martha Stewart recipe for an asparagus, artichoke and fava bean salad. "This looks like something right up your alley," read her email. And of course it was.

But you know me: recipes are usually only sources of inspiration; rarely do I follow them to a T. This one was no exception. There were a couple of steps in there that I just wasn't going to do: paring down artichokes to their tender hearts from scratch - which I find to be a waste, since if I'm going to buy whole artichokes, I'm eating whole artichokes; and simmering white asparagus in a milk concoction for 45 minutes until tender - seriously? Blanching regular old green asparagus for about a minute in boiling water works beautifully for me. So, my version used canned and drained artichoke hearts, and quickly blanched asparagus. I shaved off a good couple hours of prep time. In addition, Martha's version would make for a beautifully composed, plated dish... but that isn't exactly ideal for a potluck gathering. So in my version, I tossed all of the ingredients together with some spring greens in order for it to be easily doled out from a big salad bowl.

I even tweaked the dressing - possibly the best part of this salad and what made it so yummy. Martha's version was good... but it was pale in color. I realized I wanted something green - everything in the salad was basically a shade of green, so I went monochromatic, and bumped up the flavor in a subtly different way. So, if you're aching to get some green onto your plate (literally), give this a try. Below is Martha's recipe for the salad with my adjustments noted (visit her website for her complete version).

For the Dressing
  • 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 scallion, green part only (I used 4 scallions and a hefty handful of chives - that made for the green color of my dressing)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (I added way more)
Puree all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

For the Salad (my version)
  • 2 14-ounce cans of artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1 pound green asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup fresh fava bean pods, doubly shelled
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
  • 4-5 cups fresh spring greens
  • 1/2-3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Combine all salad ingredients, toss with dressing and serve.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thinking Inside the Box

I finally did it. I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) delivery service. I've been hemming and hawing for years now about joining one, but finally pulled the trigger when some good friends of mine raved about their CSA (and now mine), Farm Fresh to You. It seems like a perfect fit - customizable fruit/veggie options so I don't wind up with items I'd never use; home delivery on a predetermined schedule (for now, I'm going with every other week); a wide variety of organic fruits, vegetables and herbs year round. And did I mention, they bring it right to my door? Love it. I got my first box a couple days ago, and couldn't be more pleased. In fact, most of it's already gone... so good.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Here's to Project Sweet Life

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~Author Unknown

Today marks a day that I just can't let go unnoticed. After more than 30 years of shaping young minds, imparting knowledge, mentoring, and generally just working her butt off for the benefit of her three kids, my mom is retiring. Retiring! A momentous milestone, a day well-earned, a long time in coming. I couldn't be more proud of my mom - her vast accomplishments and the legacy that she leaves in her wake will forever be the bar to which I strive. She is now free to embark on her self-described "Project Sweet Life," and to that I say, get on with it! No one deserves it more than you. Savor your coming days, eat up the possibilities that present themselves in your path, relish the small pleasures you've had to overlook while providing for everyone else. Congratulations, mom. I love you.

Utah? You Bet!

Some celebrations just call for ice cream. And if you happen to be lucky enough, that ice cream would be the famed Aggie Ice Cream from Utah State University, in Logan, Utah. I was in Logan last weekend to witness a milestone and reaffirm that my third-generation Aggie blood still runs blue.

The milestone in question was to see my talented dad perform with the group he toured with during college at USU in the 60s called The Balladiers. The performance was 43 years after their USO tour in 1968 to the Far East. They put on an amazing concert at the university's Performance Hall to a capacity crowd, strumming and singing their hearts out for two hours. It was an experience not likely to ever be repeated in such a formal way, and one that our family will never forget. I'm so proud of my rock-star, 12-string guitar-playing dad and his band mates that my heart just swells with pride thinking about what a special occasion the performance was. Words really just can't express. So thank you dad and dear Balladiers for the memories.

And in true Fare to Remember fashion, the memories can't possibly be complete without sealing the deal over food! So, once the concert was over, the guitars were all packed and the microphones silenced, we headed for the USU Ice Cream Shop to celebrate and let my dad sign a few autographs (I just made that up...). My nephew, pictured above, is enjoying one of Aggie Ice Cream's signature flavors: Aggie Blue Mint. Mint ice cream, tinted blue, with Oreo cookie bits and white chocolate chunks. Yum, eh?

The fact that the school mascot is an Aggie, you can surmise correctly that as an ag school established in the late 1800s, USU has a proud tradition of excellence in the animal sciences. In USU's case, dairying in particular. The first lick is a rite of passage for any student, and it lives up to its reputation as being some of the best ice cream you'll ever have the good fortune to try.

Here's a little bit of Aggie Ice Cream history, cobbled together from a couple of sources on USU's website:

"Aggie Ice Cream has 26 different flavors and is known around the world. Why is it so good? Well, [it] has a 12% butterfat content [and is] aged slightly longer and contains less air than most commercial brands.

"The high quality of ice cream that is being made and enjoyed around the world today links back to 1921 when Professor Gustav Wilster revitalized the dairying department after WWI. He taught his skills to his students and then [sent] them out into the world. Gustav must be credited with not only the creation of Aggie Ice Cream, but also the birth of the Utah ice cream industry. The achievements of his students led to the founding of such landmark Utah companies as Caspers Ice Cream, Farrs Ice Cream, and Snelgroves Ice Cream.

"More recently, a Korean USU student loved the ice cream so much, he devised a plan to take it home with him. He gathered a group of Korean business men, who proposed the idea to USU, and in June 2000, the first international Aggie Ice Cream Shop was opened in Seoul. Not only that, but Aggie Ice Cream was also the first ice cream to make it to outer space, thanks to USU's aerospace technologies division."

So there you have it. They make cheese too.... but I'd best just stop with the ice cream, because you do know how I can drone on and on about cheese! This post is cheesy enough. (Rim shot.)

Switching gears here, I'm also going to do a couple of Utah restaurant shout-outs. Not that they have anything to do with Aggie Ice Cream, but when I go home, my mom always makes a point of introducing me to Salt Lake City's newest and hottest. So, she and I have shared many a fine moment over great meals, and I just think a couple places warrant a mention in the event you ever find yourself in Salt Lake City and are looking for a place to eat.
  • Pago: Located in the ever-hip 9th and 9th area of SLC, Pago is one of the many Utah restaurants joining the farm to table movement. I had a beet dish there that transported me over the moon; I aim to recreate it someday. Called "Cinnamon Beets" on the menu, the roasted baby beets come topped with a cinnamon/nut brittle that is to die for. It is served on a bed of greens with Greek yogurt and truffled honey. Beet perfection, if ever there was such a thing.
  • The Copper Onion: Um, hello delicious! "The Copper Onion serves a wide array of dishes and [features] a menu designed to explore and share. An insistent focus on the freshest and best is paramount; sausages and burgers are ground daily, bread is baked and ice cream is made in house, offering casual diners an exceptional experience at affordable prices." The charcuterie plate mom and I shared took me straight back to Argentina; my salad of just-picked greens spiked with fresh mint was unexpected and refreshing; our entrees of cheeseburger and mussels in a black pepper cream sauce were both spot on. My brother lives right around the corner and is a regular patron, and my sister evidently knows Chef/Owner Ryan Lowder... so The Copper Onion will be in our family rotation for years to come. Thank goodness!
iPhone pics....