Archive for July, 2008

Fava beans. Not so hard. Without chianti.

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Despite an unfair reputation, fava beans are not so hard to prepare. Yes, this may be the only vegetable that must be peeled twice, but preparation goes very quickly with proper technique. First split the large fleshy pods by twisting or by judicious use of a thumbnail, and carefully remove each bean within. Blanch resulting beans in highly salted water for two minutes, then shock with cold water and drain. Now each bean must be peeled, but it’s quick work with just your fingers.

Favas are available only briefly in our climate, so jump on them while you can! These babies came from Pachamama Organic Farm.

Fava Beans with Pecorino

This quick salad is a riff on a simple dish I often make when fresh peas are available.

  1. 2 cups prepared fava beans (as above)
  2. 1/2 cup pecorino romano in a 1/4″ dice
  3. 2 Tb fresh lemon juice
  4. 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  5. 5 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  6. black pepper, to taste

Prepare a vinaigrette by whisking olive oil into the lemon juice and zest. Add black pepper to taste – I like quite a bit. Lemon makes for a lighter vinaigrette, but certainly adjust proportions to your taste. I find the pecorino to be salty enough alone, so I don’t add additional salt.

Toss favas and cheese, toss with vinaigrette and serve.

With apologies to Dr. Lector, serve with a crisp gruner veltliner, not a “big amarone” or even a “nice chianti.”


Pachamama Organic Farm

Local somewhere. Pimientos de Padrón. From Virginia.

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Pimientos de Padrón are succulent thumb-sized green peppers that are traditionally grown around the small town of Padrón in Galicia. A classic tapa, served there and in Madrid, is made by simply sautéeing a couple of handfuls of peppers, stems on, in olive oil, then adding sea salt to taste. The result is a smoky, salty delight, eaten by grabbing the stem of the pepper and biting off the body of the pepper. Most are mild but a few have a surprising amount of heat: “Spanish Roulette,” according to the New York Times.

La Tienda, based in Virginia, noted that Galicia and Virginia share an Atlantic coast. They have persuaded a local farmer to produce the peppers from imported seeds, and the results are available every year about this time. Thinking back to last summer in Madrid, I could not resist ordering a couple of pounds. Since overnight shipping is a given, I also took the opportunity to tack on the only-just-available Jamón Ibérico Bellota Paleta in a 4 ounce hand-sliced package. That is the subject of another posting, but I can tell you that the peppers alone were worth the shipping cost.


La Tienda

La Tienda. Spain in America. The source.

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

A new category debuts, Uncommon Sources, that will showcase sources and suppliers that may not be local, but certainly are important. At least to some of us!

La Tienda is more than just an essential source for hard-to-find
Spanish ingredients, it’s an outpost of Spanish culture in America.

There was no Spanish food to speak of in this country until Asturian chef José Andrés opened Jaleo in Washington, D.C. Before, paella was the only familiar Spanish dish, and that was probably a sorry mishmash of gummy rice, chicken, shrimp, and sausage (authentic paellas never mix seafood with land food). Andrés transformed the idea of tapas into the now-ubiqutous “small plates” that Americans could easily grasp, and Spanish food was here to stay.

There were no Spanish ingredients in those days either. La Tienda was founded by an American family that had lived in Spain for many years. They began by importing items for their own use in 1996, and happily the business has grown to a national level with over 500 products available.

La Tienda was instrumental in bringing legal Jamón Ibérico to this country, and a complete range of ham is available from mere serrano to Jamón Ibérico Bellota Paleta, thought by many to be the finest ham in the world. Also available are difficult-to-find Spanish sausages, including chorizo, buttifara, morcilla, and a wide variety of essential pantry ingredients: smoked pimentón paprika, roasted piquillo and guindillas peppers, paella rice, and a wide range of unsurpassed oil-packed tunas.

A plug. 5280 Table Talk. Many thanks.

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

bco fresh had a nice writeup on 14 July in 5280 Magazine’s Table Talk online newsletter. 5280 has a finger on the pulse of the Denver food scene, and this is a very useful online source for the latest restaurant news and a carefuly chosen listing of current wine and food events. Highly recommended.

Bison simple. Meat and potatoes. High Wire.

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Grilled bison round steak with new potatoesGrilled bison round steak and perfect new potatoes fresh from the ground: simplicity itself. It’s meat and potatoes without the guilt: all the advantages of bison over beef, and even the pickiest eater will enjoy this neo-traditional treat.


High Wire Ranch

Monroe Farm

First basil. Pesto, of course. Ligurian style.

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Fresh basil (Red Wagon Organic Farm) has arrived in a big way, and of course that means pesto. I’ve made it the same way since the late ’70s, always using some variation of Marcella’s then-daring “Blender Pesto” from The Classic Italian Cookbook. This two volume opus, now out of print, was the Italian Mastering the Art of French Cooking that taught Americans that there was more to Italian cusine than red sauce and pizza. Happily, both volumes have been combined, updated, and extended as Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Comprehensive and wonderful, this is certainly the one must-have Italian cookbook written in English.

In Liguria the pasta is usually cooked with a potato, which is diced and served with the dish, often with green beans. I used the first potatoes of the season from Monroe Farm, but omitted the beans this time in order to keep it simple.

Pesto Ligurian Style

  1. 2 cups basil leaves, packed
  2. 3/8 – 1/2 cup olive oil
  3. 2 Tb pine nuts
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  6. 2 Tb pecorino Romano, grated
  7. salt, 2 Tb butter
  8. a handful of small potatoes
  9. pasta, about one pound

Chop garlic fine, add garlic, basil, pine nuts, and olive oil to a blender or food processor. Process until blended but not too smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Marcella adds salt and a full 1/2 cup oil; I omit the salt and use a bit less oil. The pecorino adds a nice sharp note, but don’t hesitate to substitute an equal amount of parmesan if you don’t have a well-stocked refrigerator.

Fettuccine is classic (called trenette in Liguria), but spagetti works well also. Chop potatoes roughly into bite-size pieces. Cook pasta and potatoes in salted water until pasta is al dente. Drain, add butter and pesto and toss to coat, then add most of the cheese, reserving a little for the table. Toss once more, and serve immediately.


Red Wagon Organic Farm

Monroe Farm

Introducing iJam. Jamón Ibérico reinvented. With Apple.

Friday, July 4th, 2008


Apple enters the fine food market. See a very funny spoof of Apple style from a creative agency in España here. Be sure to watch the “guided tour” video … letter perfect.

This is especially timely, as real Jamón Ibérico, even the finest de bellota, is finally becoming available in this backwards country of ours. At a steep price, of course, but no more sweating customs with tightly wrapped jamón concealed in your luggage…

Fresh eggs. Oeufs de Meurette. Burgundian classic.

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Ouefs de MeuretteSometimes the plethora of available greens don’t inspire, but really fresh eggs from Wisdom’s always do. Classic Burgundian dishes include Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, and always escargots, but Oeufs de Meurette is a sleeper dish that is perfect for warm early summer evenings.

Oeufs de Meurette (Serves 4)

For the sauce:

  1. 1 bottle (750 ml) red wine, preferably red Burgundy
  2. 1 cup good brown veal, beef, or chicken stock
  3. 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  4. 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  5. 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  6. thyme sprigs, parsley, a bay leaf, and a few black peppercorns

For the garnishes:

  1. 8 slices of bread from a large baguette, about 3/8″ thick
  2. 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  3. 8 button mushrooms
  4. 4 oz bacon, diced
  5. 16 pearl onions
  6. olive oil, butter

Remaining ingredients:

  1. 8 fresh eggs, poached
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 2 tablespoons flour
  4. salt and pepper, to taste

First, prepare the sauce. Chop vegetables, combine with wine, stock, and herb mixture. I use a seriously reduced brown stock here – if you are using canned stock, good luck, but you will want to reduce it first. Simmer sauce briskly until reduced by half or even more. The wine is traditionally red Burgundy, but Beaujolais or something unoaked and fruity will do in a pinch. Beware any highly-oaked New World wine, even domestic Pinot Noir – the concentrated oak flavors would be overwhelming or worse.

Next, prepare the garnishes. Make croûtes by frying the bread slices in olive oil; drain on paper towels, then rub both sides of each with the cut garlic. Reserve. Sauté mushrooms in butter, reserve. Sauté bacon, remove and reserve, then add pearl onions to the rendered fat and cook until nicely browned.

Final preparation. Prepare a beurre manié by mixing softened butter with flour. Strain the sauce into a clean saucepan. Over low heat, add beurre manié and stir until slightly thickened and glossy. Poach 4 eggs to your taste. This can be done ahead, reserving nearly-cooked eggs in cold water and reheating in hot water for a minute or so. Place two croûtes on each serving plate, top each with a poached egg, then portion bacon, mushrooms, and onions evenly. Spoon sauce over each plate and serve immediately.

Serve outdoors if possible, and think of early summer in Beaune. Époisses cheese is the perfect dessert.


Wisdom’s Natural Poultry