Tuesday, June 5, 2007

spring vegetable stew

shelling peas

Last month, en route to a cousin’s baby shower in Connecticut, my mother, sister and I realized that we needed a new envelope for the card we’d brought and swung into a strip shopping mall which housed a crafts store. I ran in to buy one, and found myself smack dab in front of something so mind-blowingly awesome, it took me nearly a minute to remember to breathe: as if I couldn’t love her any more, Martha Stewart apparently has a line of crafts products, and people, if there are two things I’m powerless in the face of, it’s a rack that contains not one, not two, but eleven different types of crafts glue and their doyenne. That I walked out of the store that day with not a single MSC product is nothing but a testament to my refuse-to-overstuff-my-tiny-apartment willpower, but it’s been three weeks now, and still, almost every other worth that breathlessly escapes my lips sounds like MonkeyPartyinaBox! or PaperBagPuppetKit! I am nothing if not a sensible, level-headed individual.

shelling peas

Monday, the mailroom guy arrived at my desk with the Biggest Box in the Whole world, and people, it was from Martha Stewart Freaking Crafts Dot Com. I shit you not. I briefly worried that I had in fact lost what was left of my mind and ordered a Leaf Wood Stamp 1 whilst drunk or something. (Hey, some people drunk-dial exes, perhaps drunk-buying multi-colored Evening Terrace Decorative Adhesive could be my thing. Can you imagine what a riot it would be to tell this story at a party?) I mean, this really crossed my mind, and left me so panicked that I went to see if I had an account, or old emails confirming an order, but retrieved nothing. So I IM-ed Alex and confessed that I thought I might be placing orders on MarthaStewartCrafts.com in my sleep, and why couldn’t I just be a normal girl and sleep-shop for Manolos? And do you know what knee-weakening sweet nothing he whispered into my monitor? Do you?

“That’s box one of two.”

Hummuna. Did I score well or what?

favas, out of their pods

I suspect you want to know what’s in this box, but I can’t tell you because I don’t know. My birthday, you see, is not until next week and frankly, the excitement of having this g’normous box in my cube–really, I’m like a one-year old, equally excited by a box and it’s contents–will definitely be able to hold me over until then. No peeking for you, either, okay? Until that time however, and because we’ve already dedicated this entry to how awesome my boy is, I have to tell you about this delicious we meal we cooked together last week.


It was a real team effort, and I dare say that it will inspire more going forward. The recipe comes by way of a New York Times Magazine article about artichokes by Sara Dickerman, and being equally huge fans of both the green globes as well as Sara’s column on Slate.com, I couldn’t wait to dive in.

If you can find those true baby artichokes (we’re talking 3″ or less in diameter), even better, as you can spare yourself the task of de-choking them, as there is nothing inedible inside.

fresh peas

The first time for either of us, we shucked fresh peas and favas which was pretty fun as far as prep work goes. They were stewed with baby artichokes, onion, pancetta and stirred with fresh mint and parsley in a Roman-style spring stew known as La Vignarola. Hefty and fresh, it was a stew like none I’ve eaten before and despite the loads of prep work–aided by good company and, of course, good wine–utterly worth it. I can’t wait to make it again next year.

la vignarola

La Vignarola [Roman-Style Spring-Vegetable Stew]
Sara Dickerman for the New York Times 5/27/07

Serves 6 as a side dish or first course.

2 lemons, halved
5 large artichokes (about 12 ounces each)
11/2 cups shelled fresh or frozen fava beans, or shelled frozen edamame
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 sprig oregano, optional
2 ounces guanciale or pancetta, slivered
2 cups shelled (fresh or frozen) peas
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint
* teaspoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper.

1. To prepare the artichokes: Fill a large bowl halfway with cold water. Squeeze the lemons into the water and add the rinds to the bowl. Using a serrated knife, cut off the top third of an artichoke. Pull back and snap off the dark green, leafy blades, one by one, until only the pale yellow leaves remain. Using a paring knife, trim the artichoke bottom and stem to the pale green flesh, then cut it in half lengthwise. Drop into the water (to keep the artichoke from turning brown) and repeat with the remaining artichokes. Using a spoon, scoop out the prickly leaves and hairy choke. Cut each half into 4 wedges and return to the water until ready to use.

2. If using fresh fava beans, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl two-thirds full with ice water. When the water comes to a boil, add the beans and cook for 1 minute, then drain and immediately submerge the beans in the ice water. Peel the beans by gently tearing the pale skins and pinching at one end. Discard the skins, reserving the dark green interiors.

3. To cook the ragout: Heat a 12-inch nonreactive pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup olive oil and when hot, add the onion, oregano (if using) and guanciale. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion and guanciale are translucent, about 10 minutes. Drain artichokes and add to the pan, along with 2 cups water and 11/4 teaspoons salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until artichokes are just tender, about 25 minutes. If using frozen favas, add them and cook for 2 minutes. If using fresh favas or frozen edamame, add them, along with the peas, and cook until warm and tender, about 5 minutes more. Remove the oregano sprig. Sprinkle in parsley and mint. Season with lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and, if desired, additional salt. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve.


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