Blame it schoolwork — or sheer laziness on my part — but it has been six weeks since my last post. Egad! I missed the whole, elongated month of February! With 18 class sessions in four graduate courses at two universities during that period, perhaps I could be forgiven this trespass.
Fortunately, cooking and eating have continued unabated during my hiatus, and I return with a few notes about food highlights this weekend. Yesterday was a good day for vegan choices. Lunch borrowed a page from Chad Robertson, who likes his bread slices pan-fried. I did so with three slices of my latest Tartine bread (70/30 white to whole wheat ratio), browned nicely in olive oil. On these I spread a thick layer of coarse puree of organic, dried fava beans, which I had prepared the day before. (This was the first time I had ever cooked dried fava beans. They were hard, deep tan, nuggets that looked like giant corn kernals, displaced molars or Chiclets — but after soaking overnight and simmering with garlic, onion and bay leaf for 90 minutes, they each yielded small amounts of creamy beanness when squeezed between two fingers.)
Atop the puree I had hoped to place some bitter greens. However, since those were not available at lunchtime, I used my Russian Mix sprouts (clover, mustard, onion, dill, fenugreek) and thinly sliced red onion. For extra credit: on one of the slices, I added a little leftover sauteed red kale with caramelized onions. These went down nicely when accompanied by a glass of 2003 Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino.
In the afternoon I did my vegetable shopping, and returned to do cooking for dinner. First, I needed to remedy the greens situation, so I cooked in succession Swiss Chard, Red Kale, and Turnip greens, using the same pot of water for fuel efficiency and a little flavor-mingling. These were set aside for Sunday’s grilled bread and bean puree.
Next, since it was cool, gray, and slushy — typical March in New England — I turned to Molly Stevens for a couple of hearty vegetable braises as a first course for dinner. One was done with wedges of fennel, browned in olive oil and then braised with garlic, thyme, coriander, fennel seed, an anchovy fillet, pitted Nicoise olives, white wine and homemade vegetable stock. I added a few small Yukon Gold potatoes as well, since they taste so good with fennel.
The other was made with broccoli rabe — sauteed with the usual suspects, garlic, pepper flakes and olive oil — simmered in stock, and then finished with arugula and pine nuts. These two dishes were served, along with a couple of leftover stuffed mushroom caps, as our primi piatti.
The second course was even easier. I reheated the main dish from Friday night’s leftovers: porcini-flecked linguine served with a wild mushroom crema, all of which were jazzed up slightly by the inclusion of bits of another vegetable delight I learned from Barbara: steaks made from thick-sliced cauliflower, browned in a hot oven, then roasted with tomato chunks and sauce, along with chopped Kalamata olives. The wine choice was an excellent match: Valle Dell’Acate Il Frappato from Sicily.