Monday, June 22, 2009

Nachos and Fava for Father's Day

My father is a professor/actor in the Philippines. Yesterday for Father's Day brunch at my in-laws I made a Moroccan inspired dish. It was one of those days where I really missed Dad and wished he could have been with us, sharing this dish with my father-in-law, his new fellow Visayan kumpadre. If my Dad were at lunch with us, I may have also prepared nachos from simple store bought ingredients thrown together and microwaved. In 2002 when I visited Dad it had been sixteen years since I had last been to the Philippines and an entire decade had passed since we had seen each other. For some reason he absolutely loved the nachos I made for him on Father's Day in our home in San Mateo, a semi-rural town just outside of Manila, perhaps because it is something he doesn't often eat in the Philippines or because he never thought it could be prepared so easily at home. Or maybe it was because he was happy to see his daughter and anything I prepared for him, even a reheated can of pork & beans, would have made him happy.

My Dad loves to eat and the maid had made a joke while he was gorging on the junk food nachos that "hobby ni Sir ang kumain, Ate." I think this Moroccan inspired dish, more wholesome than microwaved tortilla chips, American cheddar and canned jalapeno slices, would be to his liking as well.

Fresh, locally raised organic vegetables inspire me. I love this time of year because of what turns up at my favorite stores. I wanted to use the fresh fava beans I bought at the Ferry Building and one perfect baby cauliflower from Real Food Daily on Filbert Street. I wasn't sure what would best showcase these finds then I remembered a friend who married a Moroccan man and how she cooked with fava beans in some type of vegetable and lamb stew. I decided to recreate those flavors from memory, to cook from feel and sense without the aid of a recipe. I tend to cook without measuring and eyeball the portions.
The measurements are approximations at best and should be used more as guideline than hard fact. Taste often and adjust accordingly.

Moroccan Flavored Vegetable Stew with Spiced baby Meatballs

Vegetable stew
1 whole large onion, sliced fine
1 lb roughly chopped mushrooms
1/2 lb new red potatoes
1 cup chilled pinot grigio
1/2 cup tomato paste
4 tsp butter
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground cumin
1/4 tsp fresh ground coriander
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
1 bunch dinosour kale or any hardy greens

In a heavy bottomed pot (I love using my Dutch oven Le Creuset for these types of dishes), melt 2 tsp butter along with 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add onions and begin to caramelize over medium heat for about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to cook for another 8 minutes, then add the halved new red potatoes for another two minutes. Add the tomato paste and immediately deglaze with the pinot grigio and bring back to a boil. Add all the spices and fleur de sel to taste. Add the chopped dinosour kale. Simmer uncovered while you prepare the meatballs.

Spiced meatballs
3/4 lb grass-fed ground beef
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 tsp fresh ground cumin
1/4 tsp fresh groun coriander
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
1 whole egg
1 tbsp fleur de sel
canola and olive oil (1/4 cup)

Combine all ingredients but do not overwork to keep the meat light and fluffy. Shape into mini meatballs (about 1 tsp full) and fry in oil until nicely browned (about 2 minutes each side). Drop meatballs into the vegetable stew to continue the cooking process and to mingle the flavors. (One of my sister-in-laws thought that the meatballs were made of lamb, but it is the combination of spices and the cooking technique that elevated the simple ground beef.)

Simmer stew and meatballs for another 10 minutes, add more pinot and some water if it gets to dry. The ideal amount of liquid is enough to make a nice sauce to ladle over brown rice, but not too much that it becomes a soup.

In a separate pot, boil water with a few fresh lemon rounds. Add the prepared fava beans (leave the skins in tact but take seeds out of the pods). Do not overcook! Test for doneness after about five minutes then set aside in a bowl to cool. In the same water, add the cauliflower and cook covered for about 3 minutes, then begin to test for doneness. Again, do not overcook the vegetable. Let cauliflower cool while you take the grey skins off the cooked fava beans, exposing the beautiful apple green color of the fava.

Drizzle the remaining olive oil and add the juice of half a lemon before transfering the vegetable stew with spiced meatballs into a nice decorative serving platter. Nestle the baby cauliflower in the middle, then sprinkle the fava beans as a garnish. Add chopped Italian flat leaf parsley and drizzle a few drops of fruity exra virgin olive oil.

Most folks ate this dish with rice at the luncheon, both brown and steamed white rice, but I would imagine this would also go well with a crusty baguette, pita bread or with a creamy polenta.

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