Just Plain Yummy

Okra and Other Summer Garden Delights

photoWhat you see above is summer’s bounty, people. Fresh basil, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers and okra just picked from the garden.

I dedicate this Paestry post to my co-worker who kindly shared these garden delights with me these past two months. The experience has already cemented a future plan to begin gardening.image_7It is mind-boggling how prolific a garden can be. It started with never-ending yellow summer squash, cucumbers and “peaches and cream” corn, then the green beans and bell peppers arrived and the okra emerged. Soon, the jalapenos and banana peppers appeared and now the tomatoes are really taking off.photoThis entire time, the basil has been thriving. It is the most fragrant basil I have ever encountered. I plucked a leaf once, ate it straight-up and it was so fresh it tingled my tongue. frametastic

image_5I will take a moment to focus on okra. It is a wonderful and mysterious vegetable. Before moving to Alabama, the only times I’ve eaten it were in gumbo or Indian curries.

The most distinctive thing about them is their sliminess, which is by no means unpleasant but rather their best trait. Cooking them reduces the slipperiness inside the pods but I like the slimy texture.
image (2)image_3Their flavor is challenging to describe. It’s unlike any vegetable out there, really. Kind of musky and mellow in a green vegetable way, if that make any sense at all.

The plants grow really tall, as high as five feet. They make beautiful flowers too. I’ve read they love hot and humid weather, which explains why they thrive in the South. image_1 (2)My friend and I cooked them the traditional southern way. We cut them in small pieces, coated with cornmeal and fried until crispy. Other recipes have them battered and deep-fried. I’ve also fried some just covered with flour. Anything goes!image_4 (2)

image_5 (2)It has been a marvelous summer of fresh garden vegetables. To close, these are some cool hop plants that grew high up a trellis.image_10frametastic(1)

Taste of Alabama: New Market BBQ

photo 2Just your typical lunch at yet another fabulous BBQ joint in north Alabama. This one, at New Market Bar-B-Q in New Market.

Just Because Avocado

photoPosting this picture of an avocado just because we all know how amazing they are. Thanks, avocado.

Radishes with Butter and Sea Salt

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I’ve really fallen in love with radishes. They are the manifestation of freshness. They remind me of their Asian counterpart, daikon, which I grew up eating all the time, usually in pickled or boiled form.

But who knew eating raw radishes, butter and salt together could be so delicious? I didn’t, until today.

I always read about this intriguing combination in David Lebovitz’s blog and Instagram photos. A Google search showed me it’s quite common in France as a snack with crusty slices of bread.

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Of course I had to try it for myself. I sliced some beautiful rosy radishes into thin disks, sprinkled some sea salt on them then dipped the slices in soft, unsalted butter. What a trio! Simplicity at its finest. The butter mellows the radish’s unique spiciness and crunch just right… and you can never go wrong with fleur de sel.

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Discovering fava beans

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There’s nothing like shelling fava beans after a long day at work to put my mind off things. I find myself going to the kitchen more and more these days to calm down. Cooking, it seems, is wonderful therapy.

Today, the fava bean was my therapist. The moment I snapped open the long pod and extracted the pretty little beans from within, I knew I had to write a Paestry post about the experience. Again, apologies for the lack of posting. Work consumes much of my time but I also haven’t been very inspired to write anything — until now. photo(1)It’s a downright shame fava beans are so often associated with the Silence of the Lambs movie because these are truly delightful. Must every reference to fava beans be followed by “did you have a nice Chianti with that?” No, there was no Chianti involved. Not this time.

So here we go. This post will give you an in-depth look at fava beans and show you how to prepare them!

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When you get to the store, pick the long, bloated ones. The first time I prepared these I did not know that the beans could be so small. The bigger the pod, the bigger the beans (probably). Make sure to buy a lot because they won’t yield much.

Bring a pot of water to boil and in the meantime, peel the pods to remove the beans. This is the most fun part. The pods are incredibly spongy and plush. Pulling the pod’s string, opening it like a book, then scooping out the edible seeds is a joy. For reals. It’s like opening a present. You don’t know what to expect and each time you snap one open, there’s that hope the bean will be fat.

Once removed, the beans will look like they’re ready to eat but not quite yet. A pale, waxy, and bitter skin covers the bean inside. That’s why you cook them. Put them in boiling, salted water and blanch for about 2-3 minutes. Remove immediately and rinse with cold water to cool them.photoThen you must do more peeling. This is when it becomes labor-intensive. Probably the most tedious part of preparing fava beans. Pinch off one end of the skin and squeeze out the bean.
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A big bag of fava bean pods only yielded a small bowl of them. But it’s worth it.

As for taste… they’re less like beans and more like peas. The flavor is similar to fresh spring peas.The texture… more plant-like than starchy bean-like. Kind of like edamame. There is also a distant bitterness that many green vegetables offer and it is wonderful.image_8I dressed mine with olive oil, salt, pepper, a tiny squeeze of lime and chopped cilantro. They are so delicious and I’m eating them as I write this.

I hope you try fava beans if you have never done so. It is a wonderful vegetable experience. I just counted how many times I used the word “wonderful” in this post (4) so trust me on this one.