Category Archives: Italian
Spring is a time of transition–Fava beans, along with calcots, ramps & fiddleheads, are some of my favorite in-between spring crops. The hearty fava’s season is a bit longer, and they’re more available across climates and geographies than some of the others, and they pair well with a variety of other foods, and can be really enjoyed both hot and cold.
Blood oranges have a late season this year, so I’m still enjoying them here in California. This is a really straight forward but delicious and loved dish, which serves 3-4 as a side.
Fava Bean & Blood Orange Salad Recipe
1-2lb fresh fava beans, whole
1 medium blood orange, peeled with a knife
1 tbsp (Spanish! buttery!) olive oil
Ricotta salata (or bits of fresh goat cheese, farmer’s cheese, sheep’s feta or shaved pecorino romano)
lots of salt & fresh cracked pepper
Pop the beans out of their pods, and bring water to boil. Boil the beans for about 1 minute, until the color has brightened a bit. Strain, and dunk immediately into a cold water or ice water bath. Once cooled, strain again and begin peeling the beans out of their membrane. You can do this part ahead, stopping at any junction and resuming later. Cut the blood orange into diced chunks. Toss all the ingredients together, topping with shaved ricotta salata (which I clearly managed to get in the photo…) or other cheese as mentioned above.
The weather has been wonderful lately, a real treat compared to last year’s never ending “winter” in SF. We’ve been enjoying our backyard and sat out around 3:30pm yesterday to have a little backyard feast after a rough day of household tasks (and, admittedly, the diligent avoidance of all things Bay to Breakers, and the decision to not leave our own property, which has become an annual tradition on the day Bay to Breakers is held; we cannot get that drunk anymore, we are too old). Oh, and to observe the solar eclipse, which made some really neat patterns on our front door and cast an interesting level of clear, bright light onto the whole Golden Gate Park area.
I offered up a civilized bottle of vinho verde, raw macadamia nut cheese rolled in pistachios, raw “Mexican” chia crackers, raw sugar snap peas, rose water fruit salad with raw cashew cream sauce and delicious fava beans with pecorino.
Every year about this time I find myself craving squash blossoms–it’s a habit I developed in 2006 when Marcella Ansaldo at Apicius taught me how to make them–that such a thing existed. It’s terribly disappointing to me that they didn’t exist in my life earlier. My parents grew squash each summer growing up in Missouri–what a missed opportunity!
These are very simple–the key to making them fantastic amounts to three things. 1) Thin batter 2) Salt and 3) hot oil.
Fried Squash Blossoms Recipe
Leffe beer, or other beer or champagne
12-20 squash blossoms*
White flour, as fine as can be
Safflower or other frying oil
Wash the squash blossoms in a lot of water, gently rinsing the insides if possible. Spin dry or allow to dry upside down for an hour or two. If they are wet, they will spit when fried and hurt you! For especially large blossoms, you may want to check for any worms or creatures inside near the stem.
Begin heating your oil to an appropriate frying heat (as hot as you can stand the spitting, basically–and trust, this takes some experience to figure out, just go for it and in time you’ll be a pro on your stove) in a manageable sized pan. I find a smaller pan (a 9″ cast iron, in my case) works better when you don’t *have* to crank out a huge volume–better control.
For about 15 squash blossoms, put 3-4 heaping tablespoons of flour into a smallish mixing bowl. Add a generous pinch of salt. Add beer or champagne little by little, until you get a batter the consistency of cold maple syrup, or a little thicker than cream. Add more flour and a touch of salt if needed as you go.
When the oil is hot, dip each flower in the batter and let the excess drip off before placing into the oil. It should float to the top and begin sizzling immediately. If not, raise the heat and wait a minute or two. Place onto paper towels or a drying/cooling rack. Sprinkle with additional salt immediately.
When you bite in, they should smell of the alcohol you used (in a very pleasant way) and should be crisp on the outside, tender at the stem area. It’s one of my very favorite summer delicacies.
* If you have difficulty finding these, check your local farmers’ market at any vendor who sells zucchini or summer squash. If they don’t have them, ask them if they can bring some the next week for you. They only keep 1-3 days at best, and they’ll need to be kept dry to prevent decay and cool, such as within a plastic ventilated container within the crisper of your refrigerator. It’s best to use them the same day they are picked.
Green Garlic and Fava Bean Goat Cheese Spread Recipe
makes about 2 cups
1.5-2 C shelled and blanched fava beans
1 head green garlic, peeled of any extra tough leaves, stems chopped
2 oz chevre/fresh goat cheese
1/4-1/2 C olive oil
1 T tasty light-colored vinegar of your choice
zest and juice of 1 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a food process or or blender. Add oil as needed to blend smoothly. Delicious as a sandwich spread as well.
Home-made Sparkling Limeade Recipe
Method using a Vita-Mix or other high powered blender
Makes about two large drinks
2 whole limes, peeled and chopped in quarters
1 T honey or agave nectar
1/2 C water
Combine all but sparkling water in blender. Puree until very smooth. Can reserve up to two days in refrigerator. Add sparkling water to serve, as strong or mild as you like. Consider adding fresh strawberries and ice for a strawberry-lime sparkling smoothie, or adding iced tea for a home-made lime arnold palmer.
From A Platter of Figs – totally doable on a Tuesday night, shopping and all!
Recipe for Fried Baby Artichokes and Potatoes with Flank Steak
1.5-2lb flank steak
2 C new potatoes or other tender spring potatoes, washed, boiled until just tender and halved/quartered
8-10 baby artichokes, outter layers peeled, tops cut off and halved or quartered*
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 sprigs parsley (or more/less), chopped finely
1.5 C arugula, optional
2 T olive oil
lots of vegetable oil (sunflower or safflower or other high heat oil)
salt & pepper
* As you clean and prep the artichokes, place them in acidulated water (water with juice of a lemon or lime) to prevent browning.
For the Steak
Generously salt & pepper both sides of the flank steak and set aside. Can refrigerate overnight ahead or season within 2 hours of cooking and leave out at room temp.
For the Potatoes & Artichokes
Prep all ingredients ahead. Heat the grill for the steak and begin cooking steak as you start this processs:
Heat a large skillet to medium high heat and cook the artichokes until beginning to color. This is to remove moisture and prepare for frying. Add the potatoes after about 2-3 minutes of cooking and cook. In a large cast iron or other high sided skillet, heat a generous inch of vegetable oil to frying heat. Test with a potato if needed for even bubbling. Add the potatoes and fry 1 minute, then add artichokes and fry all until deep golden. Remove and drain on paper towels or cooling racks.
In original skillet, heat 2 T olive oil with garlic, cooking at low heat until flavor is infused, about 3 minutes. Add fried artichokes and potatoes, salt, pepper, and parsley. Toss and serve. * Original recipe calls to add fresh arugula to potato mixture if you like.