Thursday, June 18, 2009

FROM THE MENU: Charred Calamari with Chilies, Lemon and Anchovies on Smashed Fava Beans

I've been appalling my more veg-inclined friends lately with ridiculously meaty posts: viscous head cheese, great bubbling pans of goat shank, unwieldy pig porterhouse... what's next, an Anissa Helou tidbit? Yet I've had coveted Marin Sun goat and giant porcine sides to negotiate friends. What's a girl to do?

All of this is especially nutty as deep down I'm such a zealot for all things vegetal. I worked for years at the alter of Greens, for heaven's sake, where I lived to praise stunning Green Gulch produce daily, and where we literally had an alter for found vegetal oddities: the obscenely shaped fingerling, etc. (those kooky monks). To me early morning smack at the Garden is a towering pan of stray greens (beet, turnip, scallion...) melted with whatever other earth-booty happens to be lurking, all anointed with soft eggs, bread crumbs and a big smush of lemon. This is daily bread and dharma.

So in honor of the sprouting world and patient woozy friends, here's a fat green (and, OK, pescatarian) offering: Squid and Beans. Stay with me. This is so much better than it sounds. Fresh favas, all delicate and green, have this alter-life knocked against chilies, raw garlic, stiff herbs and anchovies. And could there be a better devilish platform for our sweet Monterey Bay calamari?

Charred Calamari with Chilies, Lemon and Anchovies on Smashed Fava Beans

Fava Smash

Make more of this stuff than you need. It is spreadable manna on crostini, swirled last-moment into pastas and smacked into garden greens as a vivid landing place for soft eggs.

2-1/2 pounds fava beans, about 2-12 cups shelled

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 medium garlic clove, minced

A good handful of mint, lightly chopped

1 medium lemon, zested and juiced

1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar

1/2 cup virgin olive oil

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Remove the fava beans from their pods. When the water comes to a boil, add the favas and cook for about 3 minutes, until their skins come off easily and the beans are just tender. Run them under cold water until cool, and peel. Set 1/2 cup aside. Place the rest in a food processor with 1/4 teaspoon salt, a pinch of pepper, the garlic, mint, lemon zest, juice and sherry vinegar. Purée until melded, slowly adding the olive oil as you go. The purée should be assertive. Season if necessary. Hold at room temperature.

Salsa Verde

1 lemon, zest and juice

1 shallot, finely diced

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1 anchovy, preferably salt cured, boned and smashed

1 tablespoon capers

a handful of chopped herbs, one or a mix: parsley, chives, mint, tarragon

1/3 cup virgin olive oil

In a small bowl mix the lemon zest and juice with the shallot. Add a pinch of salt and a grinding of pepper, the anchovy, capers and herbs. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and season if necessary. Serve immediately. (If you want make this sauce early, mix all of the above without the acid - add the lemon juice right before serving).

The Calamari

2 pounds cleaned calamari, cut into 1-1/2 inch rounds, with tentacles

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 medium chilies de Arbol, seeded and crushed

8 sprigs of time, plucked

2 anchovies, boned and mashed

3 lemons, two zested and juiced, one cut into quarters

Virgin olive oil to finish

Season the calamari with salt and pepper. Place a heavy medium saute pan over high heat, add olive oil and when it just begins to smoke add the calamari. Cook several minutes, shaking the pan occasionally, until charred deep brown. Add the garlic, chilies and thyme. Cook 30 seconds. Add the anchovies and cook another half-minute. Add the lemon zest and juice and cook a moment more. Finish with a swirl of virgin oil. Taste and season again if necessary.

Serve warm over a large spoonful of smashed favas. Scatter with a few whole favas. Anoint all of it with a fat tablespoon of salsa verde and a lemon wedge.

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