Old-school Em-i-lis

The past couple days have found me yearning for leisurely hours in the kitchen. It's been a long while, too long, since I've felt I had any significant amount of time to relax in there and play around. I miss it, and have noticed that when rushed, dinners become more chore than pleasure, and I cut culinary corners in ways I don't like. 

Our spring has, so far, been an awfully wet and chilly one. There have been glorious days of warmth -heat even!- and sunshine, promises of lemonade stands and relaxed evenings on the deck with a cold glass of wine. But by and large, those times have been elusive, and most days are still "pants and long-sleeve T's, boys" rather than shorts and sunblock ones.

That said, it's spring somewhere, and the produce of the glorious season is starting to roll our way. It's the right time for rhubarb, and those beautiful pink and green stalks are showing themselves at our local farmers markets as are greenhouse tomatoes and herbs and the earliest strawberries. Asparagus is in its prime.

At the grocery, fava bean pods glow green and swollen, and plums, peaches and apricots are finally being trucked in from places north of Chile!

Perhaps I should thank the mostly-gloomy days of the recent past, for they have offered me quick moments in which to steal to the markets and have then shooed me back inside when the rains return. During the latter periods, the beautiful beans and fruits and tomatoes and greens beckon to me, and I have gone to them.

Shelling beans is an always-pleasant task, meditative, productive and grounding. Favas and borlottis are my favorites to hull, because my reward is a bowl of vibrant green or cranberry-speckled beans that only nature could conjure. Favas beg to be smashed with mint and pecorino and olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, slathered atop grilled bread slicked with more oil. Nothing this beautiful can be anything but healthful or a pleasure to eat.

fava bean and mint crostini

fava bean and mint crostini

The smell of tomatoes alone is thrilling, but then the juicy pop of each orb's taut skin is the happiest salvo. The crisp crack of each asparagus spear's end breaking off at just the point that woody and fibrous gives way to silky and tender. 

the freshest pizza 

the freshest pizza 

All of these ingredients make such delicious dishes but without much effort; that is the gift of real, fresh, seasonal food.

velvet apricots

velvet apricots

Today, I made my black velvet apricot and Cognac jam. It is as delectable as it is pretty; looks rather like a jewel, really. I love recipes that freeze an ephemeral ingredient in time for later enjoyment. It's why I make mango butter even though straight-up mango, peeled and sliced, is our favorite way to enjoy them, especially the Ataulfo, or champagne, variety that comes out in late April each year.

I also made some old favorites this week including my farro with golden beets, candied pecans, feta and a sage-chive oil and oven-roasted rosemary salmon, and, perhaps most thrillingly, treated myself to this Meyer lemon tree on Mother's Day. I'm positively over the moon about it, and will feel equal parts Cher (from Clueless; remember when she reaches out of her father's office window to pick a fresh lemon for his tea?) and Martha Stewart when I pluck a fresh lemon from its boughs.

farro with golden beets, candied pecans, feta and chive-sage oil

farro with golden beets, candied pecans, feta and chive-sage oil

Now, if only the sun will come out a little bit more and help us all dry and grow and ready ourselves for the next marathon of cooking and growing and rooting, it'd be swell!

Good food and bad, a "Don't"

Sugar snap peas are hot off the presses right now, y'all. Are you eating them by the truckload? We are! While the boys love them raw and plain (indeed delightful), I like to play around and make summer veggies like the sugar snap into more substantial side dishes or salads. 

I haven't made my Sugar Snaps with Bacon, Feta and Mint in a while so did on Sunday night. Delicious again. Surprisingly, Tom thought the mint was distracting. I do not concur, but if you're not a mint fan, feel free to make a bad decision and omit it. 

Tonight, I'm gonna do something with this mess of fresh favas that Ol helped me pick out at the farmers market. I also have hull peas and corn, tomatoes, plums and peaches. A plum tart is coming and beyond that, well, the night is young.

I feel exceptionally lucky to have a babysitter today. Three hours of blessedly quiet free time. I left the house immediately because Oliver had donned the Hulk gloves and Jack was steamed. Tired as get-out, I stopped in at Starbucks to get a flat white before ambling over to get my stinky toes cleaned up and polished (see above for lovely result). 

Just before my order came up, Jack called me. Now, I am glad that he knows how to make a call, but I will tell y'all that he sometimes abuses the "call in an emergency" admonition. Today was such a day. Because I was so distracted by his Oscar-deserving tale of woe, I picked up the wrong drink. Might as well have thrown $5 in the garbage. 

Anyway, I beseech you to NOT order whatever this is. It was disgusting and this key is incomprehensible. What is 2R syrup? #adont


Favas (without the 'nice Chianti'), head's up, etc

Y'all, fava beans are coming, and that makes me really happy. I like how schlumpy most of them look (some are diamonds in the rough, but they're rare) and how furry are their insides that snugly hold the actual beans. I love their hue which is the perfect blend of pea and mint greens. It's the green I'd have put alongside a perfect pale pink if I'd had a daughter and decorated her room. I love how their humble exteriors reveal a fairly high maintenance yet gloriously beany interior. If you'll peel, blanch and peel again, you will be rewarded with an even brighter pea-mint green treasure which you can then enjoy in many a way. Myself, I can't imagine a more delicious use than as a spread for crostini. Sure, sure, sure, as an element in most anything, favas are nice. But in crostini atop which they can star? C'est magnifique!

As I've opined before, 2Amy's, a Neapolitan joint in NW D.C., makes a preposterously wonderful Fava Bean Crostini appetizer. This gem shows itself on the menu entirely too infrequently, so naturally, I had to craft my own version. Mine is close but not the actual Cuban, if you get my drift. Olive oil, mint, pecorino, salt....toasted bread, more olive oil, probably more salt, some lemon. Beautiful. Alluring. So glad they're here.


Now, it's possible I was too relieved that Milo and Otis found each other again to have even thought to mention this yesterday, but I need to give you a head's up about this movie in case you plan to watch it with kids or recommend someone else do so. Both Joyce and Sondra (Milo's cat wife and Otis' pug wife, respectively; Joyce? Sondra?) deliver babies near the end of the film. Long story short, both my kids sat up straight and yelled, "Did THAT JUST COME OUT OF HER BUTT?" People, this is A) Life Cycle 101 and B) if you need it, an easy segue into the "how babies arrive" conversation. All day I've felt I really must mention this element of the movie. So, forewarned is forearmed. Cheers!

I'm getting pretty excited about heading to Richmond on Thursday afternoon. Tomorrow is going to be hella long, and I'm rather dreading it already. Let's hear it for adult activity, like going to a conference, or, better, symposium. Symposium sounds even more adult!