Discovering fava beans

fava bean

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.

A Taste of Alabama, BBQ Edition

FINALLY! Where have I been??? Sorry folks, my busy work schedule has kept me away from routine Paestry-posting. It’s high time I update this baby.

I’ve been living in Huntsville, Alabama for about eight months now. This has been enough time for me to do some food exploring in the area and report my findings. What else could I possibly discuss for my debut Alabama post than — you guessed it! — good ol’ southern BBQ.

Let me begin by saying the BBQ here is fantastic. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever had back home, of course. Phil’s BBQ remains dear to my heart but the pulled pork and ribs here have won me over.

Everyone has a go-to BBQ place. The “best” one varies, depending on who you talk to. I’ve tried countless places by now and noticed each restaurant has a unique way of preparing BBQ. You’ll be sure to see pulled pork plates, pork ribs, chicken, and brisket on the menu but they’re different at every place. Particularly, the very important BBQ sauce makes or breaks the dish. So without further ado, here are a few examples of what I’ve tried:

Dreamland BBQ
This place originates from the Tuscaloosa area. I like Dreamland because of the delicious sauce on the ribs. It’s vinegar-based, peppery and more runny. The mac and cheese is so amazingly bomb and those baked beans you see there — atomic bomb. No picture, but they also have an unforgettable banana cream pudding made from scratch.

Big Bob Gibson, Decatur
This place has appeared in food shows so it has gained its share of hype. I went there with my brother months ago and it was very good. The sauce is thicker and sweeter. But the real winner is the stuffed barbecue potato loaded with cheese, sour cream, and pulled pork. BAM-ah!

This place is famous for its white BBQ sauce. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of it but it’s a nice sauce that reminds me of thin ranch dressing. This description could be argued among white sauce aficionados.

Gibson’s BBQ, Huntsville
Another place with a similar name in Huntsville. I liked their ribs very much. The sauce is sweeter but I remember the pork was very tender and perfect. The deep-fried okra is also good. Crispy on the outside, pleasantly slimy inside (not pictured, sorry).


This is actually where I discovered a very particular style of coleslaw. I’m used to eating slaw with creamy dressing but here, nearly every BBQ joint serves it in a vinegar-based dressing. The cabbage is chopped more finely and tossed with vinegar and something else that makes it a little sweet. Tangy, if you will. I had a hard time truly enjoying it but the more I have it, the more I like it.

Gibson’s is also known for good pie. Here we have coconut pie. Great with a cup of black coffee.

On a final note, almost everywhere you go there is sweet tea. It’s just sweetened iced tea but for whatever reason, it is so damn refreshing here. I like it with a lemon wedge to cut some of the sweetness.

Just tonight, I went to a really good place in Madison called Greenbrier. Wonderful pulled pork but what wowed me was the most mellow baked sweet potato I’ve ever had. It came whole with the skin still on. Served with brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter for a DIY mash. Just simply good. I wish I took a picture! Next time…

Stay tuned for more updates on a Taste of Alabama.

Uni at the Little Italy Farmers Market

This weekend, some of us went to eat fresh uni straight from the shell. An uni guy sells them at the Little Italy farmers market for $8 each if you want to have it cleaned and ready to eat immediately. For $5 you can take one home and do it yourself. The vendor gets the urchins from a diver who catches them off the coast of La Jolla and Point Loma so we are talking real local. I have to admit it got a little intense for me considering the animal was alive just moments before it was halved with a knife and gutted but it was perhaps one of the freshest seafood tastes I’ve ever experienced.

Uni, by the way is the Japanese name for sea urchin, of which its roe is eaten — rather, savored. I like to call it the ocean’s butter; it is that rich and special. It can be eaten straight-up as we did on Saturday, or with rice in sushi, or in warm pasta sauces, or mixed with olive oil to be dipped with bread.

We also indulged in a few fresh oysters.

And there were of course plenty of bright tomatoes to admire.

Summer’s bounty, I love you!

A Taste of San Diego

I dedicate this post to San Diego and all of its delicious glory. Here is a taste of San Diego in one weekend.

FRIDAY:
Blind Lady Alehouse
in Normal Heights. An entire wall of this establishment is pretty much a set of windows, which I love. Sunlight streams in and hits our glasses, making our delicious beers glow like lanterns.

Left: An imperial stout (forgot name) and Alesmith’s Lil’ Devil. Right photo: Coronado Idiot IPA and Coronado Orange Wheat.

Clams and mussels

Ice cream cones from Mariposa — also in Normal Heights. Banana is one of my favorite flavors. I kept hearing about Mariposa so I was determined to try it. Very nice ice cream that is on the icier, less creamy side.

Banana walnut and maple walnut

SATURDAY:
Cafe Zinc in Solana Beach.

Salad and a vegetarian quiche

A pink hydrangea

Bronx Pizza in Hillcrest. By far my favorite pizza joint in all of San Diego because I love New York-style pizza. By the way, my friend and I almost finished the entire pizza! Just two slices left, which will be wonderful as leftovers tomorrow. Just needs a quick trip to the oven. I may also add sliced fresh tomatoes and baby spinach to jazz it up.

Cheese pie at Bronx Pizza

SUNDAY
Hillcrest Farmers Market, where have you been all my life?? I can’t believe I’ve been going to the La Jolla market all this time without ever stepping foot in any of San Diego’s other fine outdoors markets. I was so impressed by Hillcrest. I actually left to get more cash from an ATM so I could buy more. Toward the end I had to tear myself away before I spent a fortune on all the fine produce. Next, I’ll have to visit Little Italy’s market.

Loved how these were still in a mangled bunch. Wild!

Edible flowers

Radishes and a vegetable I do not know.

Bright heirlooms. Tomato season is finally here.

Raw zucchini with chili and lemon

I must have a few words about these samples. One produce stand went the extra mile and seasoned them. It caught my eye immediately. I tried the tomatoes mixed with cilantro — divine. But what blew my mind was the sliced zucchini plate pictured above. It was so zesty! Not only was it attractively sliced like so, it was seasoned with lemon, salt, and a Mexican chili spice. It was truly inspiring. I also didn’t know one could eat zucchini raw.

Tomatos with cilantro

Below: Fresh Mexican juice. I had the watermelon and it was so beyond refreshing. It was the perfect thing for a sunny, hot walk down the market stands. Next time I’m getting strawberry.

Thank you San Diego for another wonderful weekend of eats. See you next time.

Arugula Lentil Salad

I’m still in rapture over this salad I made last weekend. It was one of those salads that simply happen out of nowhere — nay, out of sheer luck. I was in the mood for greens so I bought a bag of arugula and got some Roma tomatoes just for the heck of it. When I got home I remembered the package of cooked lentils in the fridge so that went in the mix.  Then I saw the leftover white corn that I steamed a few days earlier. “Oh I’ll slice them up and toss them in too,” I thought. Then I saw one last lemon and figured it would make a nice dressing. I squeezed some lemon juice and whisked it with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Whisk whisk whisk and voila! One of my favorite salad dressings (recipe to come below) for this impromptu salad. I tossed everything together in a big bowl and wondered if it would turn out okay.

I could not believe how good it was. It was just what the doctor ordered. Something fresh, something spicy (arugula is so very peppery), something light. The lentils and chopped bacon add that protein factor so it feels more like a meal than a side dish.

I don’t make a big deal out of the salads I whip up, usually because they’re just greens dressed with a light vinaigrette. This time, I’m putting it in the books. Please try this recipe. I think you’ll like it.

Arugula Lentil Salad

Ingredients:
One big handful of arugula
1 tomato
1/4 cup of cooked lentils
1 corn on the cob (white or yellow)
Chopped bacon or salami
Grated Parmesan cheese

Dressing:
Juice of half a lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Whisk lemon juice and olive oil in equal parts until it thickens. Add S&P to taste. Only use about 3 to 5 tablespoons of the dressing, depending on how heavily dressed you like your salad. Reserve the rest for later.

Run a knife down the corn cob to get the kernels. Add this to the arugula, chopped tomato, lentils, grated parm, and chopped bacon or salami. Toss with a big spoon until the salad is fully dressed. Enjoy!

Sizzling bacon