Thursday, June 28, 2012

Flavorful Fava Beans

When my friend, Rose and I hit the farmer’s market this past week, we discovered a vendor with a large basket of fava beans. Also known as broad beans, you see them in the spring usually as a garnish on fresh salads. Most of the shoppers we observed shied away from the large pods. I suspect this is because either they did not know how to get the bean from the pod or they did not know how to cook them. Undaunted, I stuffed my plastic bag with a couple of handfuls of bean pods and off we went.

And then a funny thing happened. After we got the beans home, and I offer to give them a try, Rose finds a link to a grilled fava bean post on the Food 52 website.

You know what comes next – a fava bean showdown! Rose followed the grilled recipe and I made them for a fresh salad.

First, you slice a slit down the seam of the pod and pry it open with your fingers. 

Remove the beans from the pods and plunge them into boiling salted water for about 3 minutes. 

The outer shells will open to reveal the bright green fava bean inside. 

Remove the outer shell and the beans are ready to use in a colorful salad like this one!

Although you might think that the fava bean is similar to a lima bean, you will be surprised to taste the clean, crisp flavor. Use the beans in a fresh salad or sauté them quickly to add as a garnish for any dish. I say garnish because you need about a pound of fava bean pods to produce about 1/3 cup of fava beans!

Rose’s grilled beans uses a flavorful marinade to season the entire pod. Grill the pods and return them to the bowl with the marinade. Add chopped anchovies and toss to create an entirely edible fava bean pod with the tender beans a surprise inside.

Let me know how you like your fava beans – grilled or blanched!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Notes from a Blue Ridge Locavore
Hi Friends! I am delighted to be back in the North Carolina Mountains for the summer.  After unpacking my bags, I made a run for the best farmer’s market in Boone, NC. They’ve got legendary vendors, offering everything from radishes the size of billiard balls to homemade strawberry-chocolate jam. I’ve included links to these locavores!” Gotta love that tongue twister! If Peter picked a peck of pickled peppers from the Watauga Farmers Market, they’d be lovingly canned into something you couldn’t get enough of—like Fire from the Mountain.   

Returning to this farmer’s market on Saturdays means I get to decorate my supper table with the region’s best. This is a recent display.

You’re looking at Soft Shell Crabs served on a bed of yummy collards, olive oil-poached salmon, slow roasted over herbs and cherry tomatoes, and an arranged grilled vegetable salad that featured eggplant, peppers, onions and locally grown tomatoes. Dessert was triple chocolate bread pudding, of course.

That same week, shopping locally meant dining on an herb rubbed organic chicken, raised humanely not 100 miles from home. I borrowed the recipe for Foolproof Rotisserie Chicken from the New Life Farm Stand and slow roasted it—the chicken really merits its very own blog entry and I promise you I’ll get to it soon. I simply wanted you to have this super easy, DEEPLY satisfying recipe on file for those lazy summer weekends ahead.  
What’s on the table tonight—in this insane locavore tour of Boone—is the Fresh Catch!

The purveyor was Carolina Beach Mobile Seafood. I couldn’t believe their selection. I mean talk about fresh! Some of them were still moving among an array of catfish, grouper and shrimp. The fish monger on duty offered me a sheet of paper as she was packaging up my treasure. I looked down and read the instructions on how to clean the crab.

“What? You don’t clean the crabs?” I asked a little nervously.
“No, Maam.”
Well OK then. Off I went.  

Dealing with my awesome haul of seafood later that night, I found that cleaning the first crab was a little scary, but by crab number six I was an old pro. I sautéed them in butter and olive oil and made a pan sauce with lemon, garlic and wine. I can’t begin to describe how good it was so I won’t even try.

But what I will do is describe the local food scene—you’ll need to know it, if you ever come to call. Among my favorites are Lulu’s Sweet and Savory—bread puddings to die for. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed, but I cleaned up with Lulu. It was only my first trip out, and already I’ve bought enough decadent bread puddings to fill one whole shelf of my freezer. I cannot wait to dig into one particular concoction that I bought there, featuring mushroom, rosemary and goat cheese.

Then there’s Cheryl Piraccie, offering samples of her home made jams. Check out the photo of this pair of Bella Rooster sweetness.

I’ve learned I cannot abide this life without her Chocolate-Strawberry Jam. Cheryl modestly compares it to Nutella, but Nutella has never tasted like this! I thought I’d hit the ceiling of euphoric foodie highs and then…well…I saw the roadside spring greens. There were bright collards and kale, dewy lettuce mixes and crisp garlic scapes. What more can I say? I see a lot of salads and sautéed greens in my family’s future.

My summer experience has begun and my taste buds are already on high alert. If you can’t get to the mountains of North Carolina, check out the websites of the farmers’ market vendors near you. Some of them ship! Share your farmers’ market finds and fresh recipes with the readers here. Post a comment or send along your thoughts to More to come!!

Foolproof Rotisserie Chicken (in a Slow Cooker)

The result is way better than store-bought deli chicken, and half the price—even though I purchased an organic chicken. Gotta love a Farmer’s Market!

1 whole organic chicken, about 3 ½ pounds

2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

1 large white onion, peeled and quartered, about 1 cup
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced, about 1 tablespoon

In a small bowl, combine the salt, dried herbs, seasoning and pepper. Rub the chicken all over with the blend. Peel and quarter a whole onion, and peel and slice 4 cloves fresh garlic. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the onion and garlic. Lay the chicken breast side down into the slow cooker. DO NOT ADD WATER! Cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Serve the chicken with your favorite sides such as au gratin potatoes and green beans, or quinoa and fresh peas. Make two chickens and serve one for supper.  Save the other for easy lunch and work week dinners.

Soft Shell Crabs Sautéed with Lemon, Butter and Wine

These delicate crabs are in season twice a year when the ocean waters warm up and the crabs begin to molt and lose their hard shells.  They require a little TLC to clean (a job best done by your fishmonger). Many restaurants in the South offer them fried. I prefer to sauté them in butter and olive oil.

Servings: 4 as a first course, 2 for dinner
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Level of Difficulty: moderate

4 fresh soft shell crabs, cleaned
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 medium lemon
Unbleached all-purpose flour for dredging
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, ½ stick
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
½ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

            Lay the crabs onto your work surface. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice over both sides. Hold onto the lemon rinds for the sauce. Dredge each crab in the flour and shake off excess.

            Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet over medium high heat. When the butter is melted and bubbling, lay each crab into the pan. Cook, turning once until the shells turn pink, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove the crab to a pan lined with parchment paper and keep warm.

            Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic and lemon rinds. Pour in the wine. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly. Discard the garlic and the lemon rinds. Spoon the sauce over the crab and sprinkle with parsley.

Side Bar:  To make this dish a meal, serve the crab and the sauce over pasta or sautéed collard greens.

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