For some reason I was in the mood for clams last weekend. When I began delving into cookbooks to look for some new ideas, I stumbled across the exact same recipe in both 1080 Recipes and Casa Moro. Clams and white beans: so simple, but two ingredients I had never thought of combining. We brought back a bag of fresh clams from Taylor Shellfish after our walk on Sunday, and we were good to go.
I went with the Moro recipe, since it seemed a little more interesting, but it’s still not a complicated dish. Saute garlic in wine, add cooked white beans, saffron and parsley, add clams, done. I made it a little more work by using fresh cannellini beans, bought in the pod from Dunbar Gardens, but shelling beans is a very peaceful and philosophical activity – preferably with the aid of good music and a tasty beverage.
For the last two weeks I’ve had the latest issue of Food & Wine sitting on my kitchen table. It’s not that I haven’t read it – I have – but I don’t allow myself to keep the back issues and so I hate to recycle it until I’m absolutely done with it. I keep going back through it to make sure there isn’t one more recipe to cut out or one more restaurant review to make a note of. As a result, I’ve been staring constantly at a large front-cover photo of chicken salad with Green Goddess dressing. With predictable results.
I have actually never made Green Goddess dressing. I mean, ever. So this was sort of a duh moment for me, as I realized that I had fresh herbs all over the place, garlic and anchovies ready to hand, and a tub of sour cream in the fridge left over from our Monday night enchiladas. There was no reason at all not to make this. And I had the perfect vehicle for the dressing: a large bag of perfect, slender green beans from Blue Heron Farm. I cut the beans in half, blanched them in boiling salted water and drained them, then got to work on my dressing.
At this point in the season, the rhubarb plants have peaked, attempted to bloom their heads off (and been thwarted by my Felcos), and are beginning to settle back into merely being a large green presence in the yard without actually attempting to overrun or squash anything. We’ve had rhubarb crisp, clafoutis, pie, compote, and muffins, and stowed away a large freezer bag of chopped stalks for later.
Despite all that, I’m nowhere near rhubarb burnout, and there are several recipes left that I want to try – for instance, I’ve still never roasted rhubarb. Or poached it in red wine. I have, however, braised it with green herbs, onion, tomato and saffron. Sound weird? It’s actually really, really good.
I’m fairly sure that this is the ugliest soup I have ever made or eaten. The good news is that looks aren’t everything; it was actually very tasty. It was a cunning use of leftovers: the fava bean puree from awhile back, mixed with plenty of garlicky chicken stock, some finely chopped ham and asparagus stems, and a fair quantity of frozen chopped spinach.
The final soup was savory and had a nice velvety mouthfeel. It also had a tendency to gel when chilled, which made for an unappetizing look straight out of the fridge, but a bit of whisking after reheating brought it right back. This would be a good soup to make with any sort of leftover bean puree, or with fresh split peas. It would also be splendid with sourdough croutons, I’m thinking.
The New Year’s cassoulet turned out to be a bit of a bear as a leftover. The lovely crust disappeared, and the beans soaked up any remaining broth and became rather dry. It still tasted great, but it definitely wasn’t as much fun to eat as when it was fresh.
What to do? Make a soup! I figured the beans wanted more liquid, plus some vegetable to make them less dense and rich. Continue reading
As of last year, I decided that cassoulet would be my New Year’s Day tradition, beans being good luck and all. Cassoulet 2008 was thrown together with leftover pork roast and andouille sausage – it was very tasty, but I wanted to experiment a bit. I found a good-looking formula for cassoulet on Kate Hill’s blog, and followed the instructions loosely.
I was going to use duck confit this year, I swear, but the co-op sold out of the stuff, then closed early on New Year’s Eve. We made do with sausage and a small slice of uncured ham. I didn’t have any ham hocks or bacon to flavor the broth, either, so I used some of our good roasted turkey stock from Thanksgiving. The final result wasn’t particularly meaty (or fatty), but the beans had a wonderful deep flavor – they soaked up every bit of broth I gave them. I didn’t use any breadcrumbs for the top, but the crust turned out fabulous. Continue reading
The last time we stopped by the farmstand at Dunbar Gardens, Steve happened to ask if we wanted any fresh cannellini beans, and he pulled out a large plastic tub full of bean pods. Somehow I had never even thought of getting cannellinis in the shell, and I happily filled a small bag with them. Continue reading
I finally got around to making something out of my most recently acquired Italian cookbook. Not farro, though (I need to restock my supply), but fava beans. An embarrassingly long time ago we picked up a bag of dried favas but had so far failed to use them in anything – I kept looking for good recipes but everything seemed to call for fresh beans, not dried. This recipe, though, is specifically for dried beans: a simple puree of cooked favas, blended with garlic and olive oil, and topped with sauteed greens. Apparently it’s a very traditional dish, and according to the book, Marcella Hazan has said this is what she would want for her last meal. Maybe it’s better when she makes it.
The way I decided to make this was typical: I had found a new (to me) cookbook at the local used bookstore, and bought it partly because it included a number of recipes for farro. I decided I would make one of the recipes this week, but as I was scanning them I was suddenly reminded of a dish in The Italian Country Table that I had been intrigued by. So I made that instead. I’m easily derailed when it comes to menu planning.
I thought this was a cool recipe, pairing the sweet taste of farro with bright orange zest and fresh herbs, and chickpeas for added flavor and texture. It made a nice change from the cream and mushrooms often used in farro dishes. We had it alongside a roast chicken and a chunky beet salad (which went great with the orange in the farro).
I can’t remember now when it was that we went out to visit the Boudreaux winery. Maybe summer before last? Anyway, it’s not all that far from my parents’ house, but it takes a while to get there, being way way up Icicle Creek and over a slightly alarming bridge. We know Rob, the winemaker, from back when he worked at KOHO radio – he interviewed our band several times. Now he’s making really kick-ass wine from some of the best vineyards in the state, working out of a winery which is completely off the grid. Not bad.
Rob’s wine isn’t cheap, so we didn’t exactly stock up while we were at the winery, but we did indulge in a bottle of his 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon. We were saving it for a special occasion, and we finally decided there was no time like the present – as in, last Friday. I am pleased to announce that the wine was worth the wait – it’s definitely a fruitbomb, but it’s a fruitbomb with character and nuance. It had woodsy, charry notes along with the jam, and every sip seemed a little different, depending what food we were eating at the moment.
To support the wine, we decided on a dinner of lamb rib chops, rubbed with salt, cumin and berbere powder, alongside our new favorite side dish of chickpeas cooked with garlic, pomegranate molasses, saffron and cilantro. The combination was amazing. We did do one thing differently with the chickpeas this time: we actually followed the full recipe and added fresh pomegranate seeds. I don’t always like the fibrousness of the seeds, but it seemed worth it this time.