recipe: fave e cicoria

The concept of a "last meal" is one that a surprising number of people don't enjoy exploring. Whether deemed silly, impossible or just downright annoying, it's a question that—about a year or two ago—sprung up frequently popular culture (see: the blog/book My Last Supper), though by now it has more or less faded into the background.

As for myself, I've always been intrigued by the psychology of the last meal concept. Do you opt for the lavish pinnacle of haute gastronomy? Your favorite meal from childhood? A rich, calorie-laden dish that you'd never consume if you were to go on living? The decision reflects more about our values, desires and, well, appetites than perhaps we're interested to share publicly.

I had always assumed that some variation of the Italian "feast of the seven fishes" would be my chosen last meal, especially after the fortunate experience of enjoying a truly extraordinary version of this feast at Franny's in Brooklyn. But then I traveled to Puglia and encountered a meal so simple, so rustic and so utterly comforting in its ordinary-ness that the thought just spontaneously popped into my head: "This—this is my last meal."

If I am to die the way I hope I will—completely unaware that it is coming—then this is my ideal (accidental) last meal. Bitter greens have always been among my favorites, and none moreso than chicory or puntarelle—both of which work beautifully in this dish. As for the dried favas, they are an extraordinary treat in their almost potato-like creaminess. Finished with a drizzle of extraordinary olive oil (there's a last meal splurge for you) and served with a hunk of crusty bread for sopping up the remnants, it's the platonic ideal of cucina povera. Use high quality ingredients, and you'll find it's fit for a king.

Fave e Cicoria (Fava Bean Purée with Wilted Chicory)

Ingredients (serves 4 as main dish)

  • 8 oz dried Italian fava beans, pre-soaked for a minimum of 4 hours
  • 1 large head of chicory or puntarelle
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 4-6 anchovy filets
  • 1/2 cup high quality olive oil (I like an herbal, bright, spicy oil for this dish)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • roughly ground black pepper, to taste
  • optional: parmesan rind or 1/4 cup of roughly chopped parmesan
  • optional: crusty bread

Instructions

  1. Rinse the soaked fava beans and add to a medium-to-large stockpot. Barely cover the beans with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming the foam off the top of the water.
  2. Once there is no longer any foam in your pot, generously salt the water (about 3/4 tsp) and continue to cook the beans, stirring occasionally over medium heat until they dissolve into a loose mashed-potato like consistency (45-60 minutes). (Note: You can add a parmesan rind or roughly cut chunks at this point in the process to add additional flavor. Also, keep an eye on your beans and add a touch more water, as necessary, to prevent scorching.)
  3. While the beans are cooking, wash and chop your greens into 1-inch segments. Shake or towel-dry. 
  4. Heat a cash iron or other heavy-duty pan and add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. (If you're opening a fresh can of anchovies, you can just use the oil from that can.) Slice your garlic and add to the heated oil, along with your anchovies, breaking up the filets as they begin to cook. Turn off the heat and reserve your garlic/anchovies in the pan.
  5. Once your beans are sufficiently mushy, grab a hand blender and blend about 1/4 cup olive oil and freshly cracked pepper into the beans, creating a puree. (If you used a parmesan rind, remove and discard the remnants of the rind before blending.) If your puree is too loose (it should be about the thickness of freshly cooked polenta), continue to cook over medium-low heat until thickened.
  6. As your beans are cooking off their excess moisture (as necessary), reheat your garlic/anchovy pan and add your washed greens, tossing until wilted, but still retaining a touch of crunch.
  7. To serve, ladle about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of bean puree into a wide-mouthed bowl. Top with sauteed greens. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Have some crusty bread standing by the sop up the remnants.

recipe: savoy salad

It's officially too hot to cook in NYC this weekend, so this one goes out to all the cityzens sans central AC. Today's recipe came to me in the grocery aisle when I saw a giant head of savoy cabbage staring back at me. More crinkled and delicate in texture than its green or red cousins, the savoy brings an air of sophistication to the salad or slaw party. 

Following savoy's lead, I opted to grab some equally chichi ingredients: tarragon and fennel. Back at the house, I boiled a couple chicken breasts (with bay leaves and salt), shredded them and whipped up a slaw-like salad that screams less "backyard bbq" and more "tea sandwiches with the ladies."

Savoy Salad

Ingredients (serves 4-6 as a light lunch)

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 large head of savoy cabbage
  • 1 large bulb fennel
  • 4-5 springs tarragon
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (If homemade, you can reduce the amount of olive oil. I used one of those organic health food store "real mayo" brands.)
  • 2-3 tbsp dijon mustard
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil chicken breasts in salted water (optional: seasoned with bay leaves) until cooked through (About 10-15 minutes. Since they're cooked in water you don't have to worry as much about them drying out.)
  2. Meanwhile, shred your fennel bulb and savoy cabbage in a food processor or by hand.
  3. Once chicken is shredded and cooled, combine fennel, cabbage and chicken in a large bowl. Stem your tarragon and gently rip the leaves into small pieces (you can add more or less tarragon, depending on your taste preferences). 
  4. Mix olive oil, mayo, mustard and a generous pinch of salt. Dress salad and sprinkle with additional tarragon leaves for presentation.

Note: If preparing mise en place ahead of time, wait to dress the salad until about 10-15 minutes before serving. 

recipe: spiralized zucchini pasta

If you know me as a cook, then you know that I don't often cook pasta. Leafy greens, always. Spice-centric meat or fish dishes, occasionally. Rice or alternative grains, all the time. But pasta? It's a rare, maybe monthly indulgence. So let me start by saying that I find it very amusing that I'm posting two back-to-back pasta recipes on the blog.

That said, this second recipe isn't actually pasta as you know and love it. I'm jumping on the already well documented spiralizer trend with a recipe that you can eat like pasta, but, you know, sans the grains.

Being that I'm a pretty healthy cook, you're probably thinking, "Oh, she avoids gluten." Well, that was more or less true once upon a time, but these days the only thing I avoid is processed, industrial foods. Find me a crusty loaf fermented with old-school starter and I will always dig in.

Then why the spiralizing? It's simple: I despise using more pots and pans than absolutely necessary. Regular pasta involves boiling water, cooking the pasta, simultaneously making a sauce, etc. Doing it well isn't actually as instantaneous as mainstream food culture makes it out to be.

Which is why spiralized zucchini pasta is genius, because you can literally just throw it right in the pan on top of some oil, slivered garlic and spices. No boiling water, no need for two burners. Not to mention that the "noodle" texture didn't turn to mush the way I expected.

I'll stop rambling now and share the recipe—but seriously, just imagine what else you can do with a spiralizer. And if you proud omnivores need to assure yourself that you're not following the trends set by "those crazy paleo people," well, you can just sop up the remaining juices with some good ol' crusty bread.

Spiralized Zucchini Pasta

Ingredients (serves two as an appetizer, one as a entree)

  • 1-2 tbsp grapeseed oil or butter (I used a mix of both)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • tsp rosemary
  • tsp herbes de provence
  • 1/2 tsp red flake pepper
  • 2 large zucchini (or other oblong summer squash), spiralized 
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan (or grana padano, nutritional yeast, etc.)
  • salt, to taste

Instructions

Heat large sauté pan (I prefer cast iron or other non-stick for this recipe) and add your oil or butter. Slice garlic thinly and add to pan along with spices. As garlic just starts to brown, add spiralized zucchini noodles. Add a pinch of salt and occasionally toss noodles in pan, using a pair of cooking tongs. Once they're heated through, add your yogurt and parmesan and toss to create a sauce. Once noodles and sauce are heated through, remove from heat and serve immediately. (The sauce is delicious, so I advise toasting yourself some sopping up bread.)