Sunday, March 19, 2006

To be thrilled by...a wildflower in spring…

Thoughts on Spring:

To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird's nest or a wildflower in spring - these are some of the rewards of the simple life.

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

As a hopelessly optimistic romantic, despite being a bit rough on the outside, a little dark and cynical perhaps, these surely touch on the basis for both my frequent happiness and my occasional lack thereof.

In a bout of spring-based romantic optimism, fresh fava beans are on the menu. Fava beans seem to be best in the spring, here in any event. By summer they are looking old and tough.

Everyone likes to eat fava beans. No one likes to prepare fresh ones. The huge pile of green pods reduces to an alarmingly small pile of beans, and reduces further once blanched and peeled. The optimism soon dissolves onto despair – “we did all this work for this little pile of beans?!”

But their simple freshness always draws me back. They really are delicious.

So I usually make them a few times in the spring.

A really nice way to make them is based on an recipe, which I’ve made a few times, and which everyone seems to enjoy (eating at least, if not preparing!).

based on recipe
Yield: 4 servings

6 Italian Roma tomatoes, quartered
4 tbsps olive oil
2-3 lb salmon filet, cut into serving pieces
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried thyme or 1 tbsp fresh thyme, minced
2 tablespoons minced shallots
12 whole garlic cloves (don’t worry – they will be poached)
1 cup red wine
2 cups fresh fava beans, blanched and cleaned from the shell
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Stir tomatoes in olive oil on a roasting pan. Roast in oven for 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.

In a small sauce pan, bring enough water to a boil to cover the garlic cloves. When the water boils, reduce the heat to a simmer, add the garlic cloves, and poach the garlic to 10 to 15 minutes until soft. Remove and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper and thyme. Rub the salmon fillet pieces with the olive oil, and season liberally with the spice mixture on both sides. Reserve a little of the mixture for garnish.

In an oven-proof sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. When the pan is smoking hot, sear the salmon for 2 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and place in the oven. Roast for 8-10 minutes for medium-rare.

In another sauté pan, heat the remaining olive oil. When the pan is hot, sauté the shallots for 30 seconds. Add the garlic cloves, fava beans and tomatoes. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Stir in the chopped herbs. Bring the mixture up to a boil and remove from the heat. Spoon the fava beans and tomatoes onto four plates. Place a salmon fillet in the center of the sauce on each plate. Garnish with some additional thyme, parsley, and a sprinkle of the spice mixture..

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