Feasting at Home : August 2012

August 29, 2012

Coriander Crusted Halibut w/ Fresh Corn & Fava Bean Succotash

If you have never had the pleasure of trying fresh fava beans, an easy way to incorporate them into your dinner is to make a fresh summer succotash. Top the succotash with a piece of crispy seared fish, and you have a very satisfying meal. Succotash is an American dish traditionally made with corn and lima beans. It was popular during the great depression because of its relatively inexpensive ingredients. Through the years it has been modified in all sorts of ways, taking on the preferences and cultures of the people making it.

Fava beans were introduced to me early on, but in the dried form. Growing up, my dad, from Egypt, would often make a dish called Ful Medames. This is a traditional Egyptian breakfast and Egypt's version of street food, sold everywhere and cheaply on the streets of Cairo. It is tasty, filling, full of protein and most importantly, affordable.  It consists of a bowl of slow cooked fava beans, seasoned with garlic, onion, cumin and coriander. My dad would fill the crock pot at night with dried fava beans and spices and it would simmer all night long until morning when the beans were fragrant and tender. Served in bowls and drizzled with olive oil, a squeeze of  lemon, chopped parsley and fresh diced tomatoes, scooped up with toasty pita bread, it was strangely comforting and delicious. 

August 22, 2012

Grilled Peach and Arugula Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette

Growing up, my parents in their frugality would often buy produce in bulk from roadside stands. It was just the three of us, yet whole boxes of whatever was in season were purchased, at a discount of course, and the challenge was to eat the whole box of peaches, cucumbers, tomatoes, oranges, okra, or eggplant, before the contents went bad.  There were days in summer, where all we ate were peaches. 
Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Peaches. 

August 15, 2012

Honey Roasted Apricot Tart with Mascarpone Cream and Star Anise

When in season, locally grown apricots can be heavenly. But too often, apricots purchased at the grocery stores can be a little hit and miss. Many of the apricots we see here in the states come from California, grown for large produce buyers like the grocery store chains. Yes they look lovely and firm and large with their colorful velvety skin, but most often they taste like cardboard. This is because they are harvested well before the fruit's flavor has had a chance to develop. Apricots like these are disappointing.  To have a better chance of getting good taxing ones... buy them locally. This way they are able to stay on the tree longer. Whether it's at a farmer's market or fruit stand on the side of road, you'll have a much better chance of getting an apricot that actually tastes like an apricot.  If an apricot is good, it will blow you away with its flavor and fragrance. It will smell like you want it to taste. It will feel heavy for its size. A friend recently gave me a bag of perfectly ripe apricots from Tonasket. They were seriously amazing. Tender, fragrant, and the perfect balance between sweet and tart. This is what apricots should taste like. Unfortunately they did not last long enough to make it into the tart.

Perhaps, a little decadent for the first days of August, but what the hell. This is my third attempt at getting this recipe right. The thing about cooking, especially baking, is, just like anything, it takes practice. And patience. And being ok with getting it wrong.  My first two attempts at this were all wrong. The first one involved using a basic pie crust, which did nothing for the tart, with a filling as dense as mortar. The second attempt, involved a shortbread crust, and though delicious, fell apart and crumbled under weight of the filling. The third attempt, finally worked.  Pate Sucree (pronounced pat sue cray), a french sweet pastry crust ended up being the perfect fit. The crisp cookie like texture held up beautifully to the now lighter mascarpone filling, with a welcome sweetness that balanced out the acidity of the apricots. A star anise infused honey, drizzled on the apricots before a light roasting, gives them a unique flavor.

August 1, 2012

Forbidden Black Rice Salad with Cherries, Massaged Kale and Mint

I spent yesterday floating down the Little Spokane River. The birds were singing the most amazing songs, the tall grass reeds were blowing in the wind and the leaves in the trees rustled me into a happy dreamy daze. We all need a day like this.  A day of rest.  I closed my eyes and just listened.

Summer is here in the Northwest, marked by the arrival of cherries. They are lovely with their shiny jewel colored skins.  For a wonderful month or so they appear, and then before you know it, gone. A short sweet life.  There is a line in Mary Oliver's famous poem, The Summer Day, which comes to mind. Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? She too must have been thinking about the cherries.