Monday, July 22, 2013

Fava Beans

The Ramsay chicken recipe includes a risotto, a fava bean risotto. Having avoided schooling myself about fava beans, I was completely clueless about them except that Hannibal Lecter ate a census taker's liver with fava beans and a nice chianti.

Recognizing right away that the beans must be in the giant furry pods, I bought what I thought was a surplus and set about removing them from the pods.

Each pod is freakishly huge, about double the size of a regular green bean. The length of one pod selected at random is about that of a paring knife. The blade on the knife is 3.5" but the total length is 8".

Cutting the pod open I was stunned to find only four beans in there, each lying on a bed of pillowy white softness.

Plucking the beans out by separating them from the plant equivalent of an umbilical cord, I realized two things: this was pretty easy and my "surplus" of pods was not going to leave me with the bean mass recommended by the recipe. Going ahead and removing the beans from all the pods, I was left with a total mass of 136 grams.

This is when I started looking into fava beans online and found that at this point the outer portion needed to be removed from each bean. Selecting to steam mine, I waited until there was a slight color change, about 5-10 minutes. After transferring them to a bowl I found they were wrinkly.

Sure enough, the wrinkly white outer coat, once sliced, was easy to peel off. Actually, once a slit was made, the bean could be pinched out of the coat.

Ten minutes later, my fava beans were ready to be incorporated into risotto. This fava bean step took 49 minutes* longer than I had anticipated and put a near-stop to the chicken and rice.

Looking up fava beans in the Larousse, I was directed to broad beans (an aha! moment for me):
An annual leguminous plant cultivated throughout Europe for its flat seeds, used as food for man and animals. The broad bean was cultivated by ancient civilizations, particularly the Egyptians. It originated in Persia and Africa and has been used in the cuisine of the Mediterranean for centuries.
Dried beans are more nutritious than fresh ones: they are rich in amino acids and potassium salts and also contain large quantities of proteins and vitamins B and E. Broad beans contain a chemical substance that some people, particularly in the Mediterranean and Iran, are allergic to. The allergy, known as favism, is inherited and it leads to destruction of red blood cells resulting in severe anaemia.
The beans are shelled and the tough outer skin may be removed before cooking. They are cooked in boiling salted water. The classic preparation of broad beans is a puree, which is particularly good with pork. In Spanish cuisine they feature in fabada, a kind of cassoulet garnished with black pudding (blood sausage), chorizo, shoulder of pork, and white cabbage. 
Fava beans in the pods available at Grower's Direct for $1.52/1.18 lbs.

*From first picture to last, it took 50 minutes. I selected 45 minutes as the label, but you can probably crank through a pound of beans in much less time. You probably won't be stopping to take pictures or looking steps up on Google.

The Meat House Mild Italian Sausages

The next recipe I'm going to try calls for "good quality sausage meat". I went to The Meat Market and bought some mild Italian sausage, not realizing that the recipe probably meant for ground  pork.

Either way, I'm going to use these links. There are three links there, each about a quarter-pound.

Squeezing the sausage out of the natural casings, I was ready to add the other stuffing ingredients to the bowl.

Mild Italian sausages, available from The Meat House for $6.99 a pound.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Spaghetti with Chilli, Sardines, and Oregano

Watching a whole lot of Gordon Ramsay on YouTube, I thought I'd try this recipe since it looks really straightforward, a little bit different than what I'd normally go for but not too extreme, quick to prepare, and a way to use that one tin of sardines I've had in my pantry forever.

Spaghetti with Chilli, Sardines, and Oregano
adapted from Channel 4 which no longer has it posted, but also found here
click to print

2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
75 g rough breadcrumbs, made from stale bread
0.44 lb dried spaghetti
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped - I used a red Fresno pepper
3.75 oz tin good-quality boneless sardines, drained
5 oregano sprigs, leaves only
1.75 oz arugula
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil and heat until hot.

My 10" skillet.

Add half the garlic along with the breadcrumbs. Cook over a medium heat for about 3 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and toasted and the garlic tender and lightly browned.

Season with salt and pepper and toss. Drain on kitchen paper.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve some pasta water before draining.

The Delallo spaghetti, about half a 1 lb package, was cooked in the salted water 8 minutes before draining.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add remaining oil; heat until hot.

I used a 12" skillet here.

Fry the remaining garlic and the chilli for 1–2 minutes.

I went with the low end of the time, 1 minute, since my garlic was browning quickly.

Flake the sardines into small pieces, then toss in the pan with the garlic and chilli.

Add the drained cooked pasta to the pan with the sardines. Toss to mix well, adding reserved pasta water as necessary.

Add the oregano, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

When ready to serve, stir the arugula into the pasta.

Divide pasta between serving plates. Garnish with the crispy garlic breadcrumbs and serve immediately.

You DEFINITELY want to reserve some of your pasta cooking water because otherwise this will be dry. Very dry. I even added some of the pasta water to my plate and I'll probably put some in with the leftover pasta so it won't be bone dry when I reheat it. The original recipe didn't specify that some water should be reserved so Ramsay must use much more oil than I did. His recipes tend not to quantify how much oil, salt, or pepper to use. Not that that's a bad thing, I was just off.

I certainly like the pasta. It took longer to cook than the pastas I'm accustomed to but it actually tastes good and the firmness is nice. I usually cook my pastas so they are almost hard in the center because otherwise they are like Play-Doh or Chef Boyardee, aka, paste.  This one was al dente and the way it turned out is, I think, what they really mean by that.

The first time using fresh oregano (at least that I can recall) and wow, does it ever make itself known when you get a leaf. A rough chop would probably have been a good idea just for more even distribution. Same with the arugula, which is fairly bitter.

Overall though, a dish outside my norm but not one I'm opposed to doing again. I like the idea of incorporating more sardines into my diet; there's no reason not to, I quite like them. One other thing: since I was scared of over-salting this pasta dish like I did the last one, I didn't season the garlic breadcrumbs. I will not skip that step in the future.

The last thing: this took me almost 45 minutes to make but that was because I didn't get the water going for the pasta early enough and had to wait for the pasta to finish cooking. Get it going early; the rest of the recipe goes by quickly. It could be done in less than 30 minutes. It's probably easy enough to do everything in a 12" skillet, one less to wash.

  • olive oil: $0.12
  • garlic cloves: $0.16
  • breadcrumbs: $0.60
  • spaghetti: $1.10
  • red Fresno pepper: $0.07
  • Crown Prince sardines in soybean oil: $2.99
  • oregano: $1
  • arugula: $0.87
Total: $6.13 or about $3.06 for each of two big servings

Delallo Spaghetti

After trying Delallo pasta once before, I didn't bat an eye when it came to my spaghetti choice.

The selection was limited but I was glad this was there.

Delallo spaghetti, available at Sprouts for $2.49 a pound in the pasta section.

Grocery List, 072114

It seems it was a lot longer ago that I met the property managers for the first time. I sent them a letter after they came over last Sunday, confirming what we'd discussed and I suggested that since they were so floored by the condition of the apartment that I hoped it was safe to assume the 3-Day Notice was withdrawn.

Tuesday I got a visit from the new PM's. They gave me a form called a Promise to Pay or Vacate. There are three blank fields, one for the amount I owe, the date I plan to pay them, and my signature, which would authorize them to change the locks on my apartment and put my shit out "on the street" if I don't pay when I say I would. I asked when they wanted this form returned and found 24 hours was preferred. During the conversation Male PM said he has an email from the owner indicating Male PM should get the apartment fixed appropriately, not just a paint job. I told Male PM to forward that email and I'd be happy to sign away my rights. Of course, I never got the forward.

I was nervous about getting evicted and talked to a city inspector who recommended I call OC Housing Foundation who then told me I had to talk to Fair Housing Foundation out of Long Beach which serves the parts of Orange County that OC Housing Foundation does not. Odd but whatever.

I talked to Fair Housing Foundation briefly and learned that I was doing the rent withholding wrong so I had a great chance at losing an eviction case if the complex decided to pursue it. I called the city inspector and asked him to come and inspect, please! He'll be here Monday morning at 9:30.

So far, no screws have been turned further about my rent, no mention has been made about return of that crazy sign-my-rights-away-form. I plan to drop a letter off to the PM's including my July rent check after the city inspector visits. That will cover my ass so I don't get evicted if they decide to pursue it. Meanwhile I will cross my fingers that the predicted thunderstorm really does come through my city and pounds out some serious rain. I want the city inspector to see what I've been dealing with live!

For food I'm going Gordon Ramsay, that spaghetti dish IS happening TONIGHT and stuffed chicken legs tomorrow.

Grower's Direct:
  • red Fresno pepper: $0.07/0.04 lb
  • fava beans: $1.52/1.18 lb
  • garlic: $0.36/0.13 lb
  • parsley: $0.59/bunch
  • organic baby arugula: $2.49/5 oz
  • fresh chives: $1.29
  • TOTAL: $6.32
The Meat House:
  • sweet sausage: $5.28
  • Stefano's applewood smoked bacon: $12.11
  • TOTAL: $17.39
  • Florio dry marsala: $11.99 (on sale, normally $16.99)
  • TOTAL: $12.95
Grand Total: $26.66
Total for the year: $1062.71

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cinnamon-Peach Picnic Cake

I'm not one to agonize over my caloric intake. If I want a piece of cake, I'll eat it. I'll eat the whole cake if you give me a couple days. If I want cookie dough, I'll not only eat it, but I'll eat it on ice cream. Ice cream and chocolate chips for dinner? Sure, and for dessert immediately after. But when a dessert incorporates fruit, it makes me feel like I'm doing something good for myself when I eat a slice and even better if I eat the whole thing. Is that messed up?

Cinnamon-Peach Picnic Cake
adapted from Cooking Club of America
click to print

1/3 c sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
1 c buttermilk
2 c diced peeled peaches (3 to 4 peaches)(about 1 1/4 lb.)
1 (2-oz.) pkg. sliced almonds (about 2/3 cup)

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

Combine sugar, cinnamon and ginger in small bowl.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.

Beat butter in large bowl at medium speed 30 seconds or until creamy.

Beat in brown sugar until combined.

Beat in egg until well-blended. Beat in almond extract.

At low speed, beat in flour mixture in three parts alternately with buttermilk until just blended, beginning and ending with flour mixture. (Mixture will look curdled.)

Stir in peaches.

Spread batter in pan; sprinkle with almonds and cinnamon mixture.

Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely on wire rack.

This cake screams summer. Loaded with fruit, the texture was soft, yet crunchy with the nutty sugary topping. Be sure to share this with friends or eat it three times a day because the moisture will force it to get moldy quick.

This cake was so moist from all of the peach juice it was almost a little ridiculous. Testing the cake after baking, the toothpick came out clean. After cooling the cake and carving out a corner, the cake was clearly moist/wet. Granted, I did use 3 big peaches, a total of 1.56 pounds, a quarter pound more than the recipe called for.

Consider cutting back on the sugar/cinnamon/ginger mix. A good quantity of it, about half, was just loose on the cake after baking. It might make sense to toss the peaches with half the mixture before stirring them into the batter and then sprinkling the other half of the sugar mix over the nuts. That'd give you the sugary goodness and help with the moisture. I'll try it that way next time.

Oh, the recipe description in the magazine suggested other stone fruits to substitute for the peaches if you're so inclined. I'm thinking nectarines and apricots would work well, and plums too.

  • sugar: $0.13
  • flour: $0.16
  • butter: $0.56
  • brown sugar: $0.60
  • egg: $0.31
  • almond extract: $0.50
  • buttermilk: $0.26
  • peaches: $1.39
  • sliced almonds: $1, SWAG
Total: $4.91 or about $0.31 for each of 16 tiny servings.