Saturday, April 21, 2007

Fun with Farmer's Market


I LOVE shopping at the market on Saturday mornings and getting whatever tickles my fancy, especially when I have no idea what I'm going to do with it all. It's fun to challenge myself to find new ways of preparing and pairing seasonal ingredients. Spring provided me with the usual suspects last week: asparagus, strawberries, beets, spinach, mushrooms and fava beans among others. I also had to pick up my favorite cilantro pesto from the afghan/italian booth to munch on during my culinary adventures;-)

Here's what I came up with to cram all this produce into one meal: Sautéed chicken breast, crispy white-truffle polenta triangles, mushroom-asparagus sauté with roasted beet relish and warm fava beans. The spinach and beet greens ended up in a lasagne the night before, so they won't make an appearance in this blog.

As you can see from the picture above, one booth had kumquats, but they didn't make it into the meal.... they peaked my curiosity as I have never worked with them before and they're so pretty! Beets and citrus are a classic combination, so I was planning to somehow pair them, but I was foiled by gigantic seeds, so I gave up...I had enough other stuff to work with!

The beets and fava beans needed a little advance prep. I roasted the beets in the oven with water, evoo, a cinnamon stick and some cloves, but you can steam or boil them also. I was excited to taste that white beet you see in the pic above because I've never encountered one, but I soon found out why: it was bitter, and I think it was just an unripe beet...it got tossed. When the rest of the beets were done I peeled and quartered them, then marinated in shallots, dijon and champagne vinegar. Fava beans are quite a feat of prep, but I was inspired because I only get a fleeting chance every year to work with them. I took them out of their super-padded pods, then blanched the beans in boiling water for 30 seconds, shocked in icewater, then slipped off the skins. I got about 1/2 cup of fava beans from 1 pound at the market...yes, this is a LOT of work for such a small yield, but hey, they're special. To warm the fava beans I just tossed them into the chicken jus after I was done cooking everything, just before service. I will spare you the chicken prep because I don't want to insult your intelligence; it's sautéed chicken, enough said.

For the polenta I boiled 3 cups water and added 3/4 cup of polenta while whisking (4:1 ratio for firm polenta). As soon as it was cooked and pulling away from the sides, about 20-30 minutes depending on grain size, I added 1 tsp. white truffle oil, 3 T. butter and a good handful of grated Parmegiano Reggiano, s & p...don't season with salt until after you add the cheese, it's pretty salty. I spread it out in a shallow plastic container (no need to grease, cookie sheet works too), cooled until firm, then inverted onto a cutting board and cut into triangles. To 'crispify' I dredged each triangle in flour and fried in olive oil until crispy.

I prepared the asparagus and mushrooms simply, sautéing with shallots and garlic. I had regular button mushrooms, shiitakes (my favorite), and oyster mushrooms...I asked the mushroom man at the market why they're called "oyster mushrooms". He told me that they have a slight shellfish aroma, and I thought he was pulling my leg, but he was right! Needless to say a big, steaming pile of sautéed garlicky mushrooms and asparagus is pure spring comfort food, yum!

The dinner was great, but I took my time preparing it because I was catching up with friends, so some of it was COLD, a cardinal culinary sin! Still good, but I learned my lesson: catch up over eating, but get the food on the table! I think it will be another year until I'm ready to spend that much time on fava beans again:-) -K

1 comment:

Garrett said...

I think I am the only person who eats those beans with the skins on.
I'm just too damn lazy.