I don’t know when it started, but in the past few years, my good friend Jennifer has become obsessed with horse racing. Her unbridled enthusiasm has gotten our entire group of friends interested as well. Such is the beauty of a well-tended obsession. She recently had a Belmont-watching party, and I must say, watching American Pharoah win the Triple Crown – the first horse to do so in 37 years – was surprisingly emotional and stupendously thrilling.
I wanted to take an appetizer capitalizing on what was ready to harvest in my garden and an adaptation of Jaime Oliver’s “Incredible smashed peas and fava beans on toast” was just the thing. I love Jaime Oliver. He’s so enthusiastic and accessible. Not to mention adorable. I love all his cookbooks, but I especially love Jaime at Home. It’s seasonally based around his amazing kitchen garden and is full of beautiful photos and growing information. There’s a show too. It’s like the cookbook come to life. I can’t get enough.
I bought a baguette, some lemons, and some parmesan. And while I was at the farmer’s market, I picked up some gorgeous fromage blanc from White River Creamery (http://www.whiterivercreamery.com).
Then I harvested peas and fava beans.
I would be lost without those little scissors. I use them to harvest almost everything. Favas, peas, beans, peppers, tomatoes, herbs. There are few things more frustrating than ripping off an entire stem when you only meant to get a pepper. Plus a clean cut is important because it leaves less of an entrance for diseases to enter. I also just like scissors in general. I find them the perfect embodiment of form and function. I think these babies are particularly attractive. Photogenic too. I picked them up at Pearl River Mart in New York (http://www.pearlriver.com) with no idea they would serve such a purpose in my life. I also like this basket for harvesting. When it’s cooler I use a big stainless steel bowl, but once it starts to get hot, they heat up so quickly that they’re no friend to tender legumes and leaves.
Watch your back. This guy is notorious.
I also harvested some radishes and mint.
There’s always an opportunity for a moment of zen when you’re shelling legumes. So even though time was ticking to make it to the party, and I was documenting, I tried to take it.
Once your beans and peas are shucked, put some of the raw peas, a few mint leaves, and some salt in a mortar and pestle.
And, as Jaime would say, bash ’em up!
I must admit, I don’t have the right mortar and pestle. I tried both of mine. And while I love them both as objects, what I really need is one of those molcajetes that they make quacamole in. Something with a little more grit. It all worked out eventually, but I did break a sweat.
When you get a nice mash working, start to add your fava beans. Jaime used his raw, but I blanched and peeled mine. Once everything is good and pulverized, add some olive oil to make it creamy, plus some parmesan to ground all that freshness. And then kick it into gear with some lemon juice. Keep tasting until you have the perfect balance of bright creamy salty freshness.
Now you may not have fava beans hanging out in your garden waiting for you to fulfill their destiny, but this next bit is a keeper. Crostini. “Little toasts.” They are a cinch to make and are the perfect vector for truly endless numbers of toppings. Slice a baguette thinly, brush with olive oil (a little brush for olive oil is a really handy tool to have around), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pop in a 350º oven for 15-20 mins. Voila! They only challenging part is getting them golden brown without burning them. I was feeling fancy, so I smashed a garlic clove and gently rubbed it on mine. I broke a couple, so I had to be extra gentle. But then I had testers.
I made a little salad with julienned radishes, pea shoots, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.
Then, to assemble, I spread a little fromage blanc on each crostini, put some of my lovely green mash on, and topped them with the radish salad.
I needed something for the middle of the plate, so I tossed arugula, pea shoots, a bit of mint, and some fava bean shoots with olive oil and lemon juice, tossed on the few remaining radishes, grated some parmesan and lemon zest on top, grabbed a bottle of wine out of the fridge and raced to Jennifer’s. Luckily she lives about two minutes away, so I just took the platters as they were.
Thanks for the party Jennifer! And Congratulations American Pharoah!!!!!!!