Monday, March 3, 2014


...and checking in from Rockville, Maryland, where I am snowed in (wait, isn't it March?) and taking the opportunity to return to this long-neglected project.

My Rockville backyard.
There have been many changes behind the scenes - I finished the PhD and got a job on the other side of the country, and in between walked the Camino, worked on a farm in Bavaria, rode a camel in the Sahara, and much, much more, stories from which will certainly pepper this blog in the months to come.
Get it? Pepper?
Changes in my schedule and environment have led to changes in how and when and what I cook.  There have been new challenges (as well as numerous realizations of how spoiled I was in California - why would one live anywhere else?), but there have been new projects and goals, some of which have even succeeded.  Expect posts about bread, CSAs, and cooking with unusual (to me) Asian vegetables.

One of the big changes about the East Coast is the access to and price of produce.  I have mixed feelings about doing all my shopping at Lotte and H-Mart (fresh okra? now?), but when cilantro costs three dollars a bunch elsewhere, most misgivings seem to evaporate.  However, when I can cook something with ingredients that are dried, canned, or (mostly) in season, I jump on it.

If you aren't already reading 101 Cookbooks, go there now.  Heidi Swanson's recipes are fresh and beautifully photographed, and she has a knack for combining flavors and ingredients that challenge my conceptions of what "goes together," and always carries it off with style. (Guilty: I tend to be a little conservative when spicing, unless following a recipe.)  The following was adapted from her recipe.  My version omits the mint (which I thought was buried by the other flavors), and has a chili-like consistency, perfect for the snowy days.  I topped it with cotija, cilantro, green onions and freshly-squeezed lime juice, and ate it with toasted, thick corn tortillas, though I bet it would be delicious served over polenta.

Dried Fava Bean Stew with New Mexico Chiles
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 lb/ 16 oz/ 450 g hulled dry fava beans*
8 cups/ 2 L vegetable broth (I used this)
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 large white onion, sliced 1/2-inch/ 1 cm thick
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
8 dried New Mexico chiles, (some spicy, some medium, depending on your preference), stemmed and seeded, divided
2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbl cider vinegar
3/4 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt

Toppings: cotija (or other fresh, crumbly Mexican or Latin American cheese), cilantro, green onions, lime

Place the fava beans in a large pot with the broth and three of the New Mexico chiles.  Bring to a boil, and simmer the mixture for an hour, or until the beans are tender, but not falling apart.

While the beans are cooking, put the garlic and onions on a baking sheet, and broil 5-10 minutes, about 4 inches from the broiler (this number is highly dependent on your oven.  Always watch broiling items like a hawk!), until the onion is browned and carmelized.

Remove the onions and garlic, and let them cool.  Once cool (or cool enough to handle comfortably), peel the garlic, and dice the onions and garlic together.  Whenever they're done, add the onions, garlic, and tomatoes to the beans, and let it continue to simmer.  Like all chilis, it benefits from cooking slowly over a long period of time, so don't rush it.

Take the remaining chiles, and somehow reduce them to tiny pieces.  (I used scissors, but this was painfully slow.  In the future, I would put it through a food processor.)  Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat, and add the confettied chiles.  Cook for a minute, stirring (do not leave them, or they will burn), then remove and add 3 tablespoons of water, and the vinegar, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.  Set aside, and let sit for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add to the pot with the beans.

When the beans are tender, and you just can't standing waiting any longer, salt the stew to taste (though be aware that the cheese is salty), and serve with all your favorite fixings: cotija, chopped cilantro and green onions, lime juice...  Enjoy!

*Note: Make sure your fava beans are hulled, or hull them before starting!  I did not, and found myself hulling a pound of hot fava beans halfway through cooking.  I cannot recommend this procedure to anyone.

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