What do Vampires Have to do With: A Variation on Macco di Fave (fava bean puree)?

We’ve had a reading breakthrough in our house! I guess all it takes is the right book. After baseball, Evan was tearing around the house and I wanted him to settle down a bit so I asked him to sit down and do some reading while I made dinner, and to pick something that was at his level so he could actually read it. (As opposed to, Avengers: The Ultimate Guide to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, which, though I can see the appeal and the movie is on my list of mindless fun, that encyclopedia-type book is quite advanced).

Lovely lima beans…because I didn’t have fava beans

I came into the living room to tell him dinner was ready and found him reading to himself and not wanting to stop (who are you and what have you done with my child?) for dinner.

“Hey kiddo, since it’s just the two of us for dinner tonight, why don’t you bring your book to the table and I’ll bring mine and we can read and chat about our books?”

He was thrilled. Normally the dinner table is a no book/toy zone so it can be about Having a Conversation. Sometimes ya gotta break the rules.

So ace reporter/skeleton, Dirk Bones, joined us for dinner and solved the Mystery of the Haunted House, when he encountered a vampire using a typewriter: “Clickity-click, clickity-clack, ding!” Evan had trouble with the word ‘typewriter’. Understandable. “Mommy, what’s a typewriter? Why does it go ding? Have you ever used one?”

(Flashback to Grade 9 Typing with Mrs. Holroyde k-i-k-space, k-i-k space, d-e-d space, d-e-d space, l-o-l…).

“Yes, honey I’ve used one…this is how it works…” My inept description was ultimately followed by a You Tube demo and then his “...cool, can we get one?!

So back to the story…the vampire was writing a cookbook! Ev thought that was hilarious, especially when I asked him if he thought the vampire should start a food blog. He couldn’t put it down and at the end exclaimed “What a great book!” How appropriate, a vampire foodie. With a recipe for bat foot stew with crispy worm brains to boot. Not quite what I had in mind for dinner, but perfect for my budding reader.

This isn’t exactly bat foot stew, but is a lovely spring soup, picture it served warm but not piping hot, with good bread and a warm breeze on the deck….OR picture it as a warm, satisfying meal during these currently dreary Seattle days….whatever works where you are! To bring this back to the ‘dinnerversions’ theme….no, this soup wasn’t kid-friendly in our house…but we also had outrageously expensive corn on the cob because it was warm and we could pretend it was summer. So the kid ate the corn and had the merest lick of soup…and lots of baguette. C’est là vie.

Macco di Fave (fava bean puree)
Inspired by and minimally adapted from La Tartine Gourmande. It’s a beautiful blog with gorgeous photography. Check it out!

This is a very simple and delicious recipe with only a few ingredients: beans, onion, sage, good pecorino romano cheese. Perfect. Beatrice from La Tartine Gourmande used fava beans, tarragon and parsley in her recipe. I didn’t have fava beans on hand, so I used lima. 

1 red onion, finely chopped
1.6 pounds fresh or frozen lima beans
2 teaspoons finely chopped sage
4 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup grated Pecorino romano cheese, or more to taste
Sea salt and pepper

Sweat the onions in olive oil for a few minutes until soft but not brown, add the sage and beans and stir until fragrant. Turn down the heat to med-low and add the water. Simmer until the beans are very soft and start to fall apart (or puree with a hand blender when soft), then season with salt and pepper and stir in cheese until melted. (Note: adding salt to beans will prevent them from softening so don’t add it until the end).

Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and more romano and sage.

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Dulce de Leche

It was Cinco de Mayo the other day, and so am I giving you a fab recipe for fajitas or enchiladas or even mojitos? No….though Bob made a kick ass fish taco last night. Or so I’m told. I’m allergic to fish, remember? But our friends said it was great. Next time he makes it I’ll take some photos and let you in on the recipe. Because quite honestly, this dinner party was all him….he planned, invited, grocery shopped, prepped and cooked. What a guy! It was really fun too. I did virtually nothing. Except make this cake. And the dulce de leche that is decadently running down the sides. Oh my god, you guys.

This is the easy way to make dulce de leche, using a can of sweetened condensed milk. I picked it up from Stephanie Eddy’s Icing on the Cake column in the Globe and Mail (Canadian paper, for my friends here in the Excited States). There are methods out there that call for boiling the unopened can in a pot of water but you do risk having the can blow up and wasting all that decadent sweetness doing some serious damage to someone or your kitchen cabinets.

For this method, you pour the sweetened condensed milk into a 8 or 9″ pan, cover tightly with foil and make sure the foil is not hanging down. Tuck it up tight like in the photo above.

Then put your covered pan in a larger one, like a roasting pan and fill with water until about halfway up the sides of the smaller one. Pop in the oven at 450º for about 90 min. You will probably have to add more water at some point. Check the water level at the 45 min mark. Don’t add cold water though, boil the kettle and use that to top up the level.

When it’s done, it will be this lovely caramel colour. I did mine on convection and it was finished in about an hour (good thing I decided to check under the foil!) It was about the consistency of pudding. Give it a good whisk to get it all smooth if there are lumps. The first time I made this, my oven was not on convection and I just left it for 90 min. It was not lumpy at all.

It will thicken a bit more as it cools. While it’s still warm eat it by the spoonful ladle it on the crest of the bundt cake and it will slowly drip down the sides. Or, let it cool and spread it between two cookies, or stir it into plain yogurt…keep leftovers in the fridge.

Bundt cakes are trendy right now for some reason. With a traditional round or 8″ square eggless cake, the middle always falls a little. But I wondered if the shape of the bundt pan might lend itself well to an eggless cake. I was right!! It didn’t fall and it rose very well. However, I needed to alter my original eggless chocolate cake recipe because for some reason, in the bundt pan, it turned out dry the first time I made this. So I added 1/4 cup of stewed prunes (baby food prunes would work really well because it’s so smooth, but applesauce or pureed dates would likely be just as effective). Recipe below. If you want to make this with dulce de leche as a topping, make the cake first and have it cooling while the oven is working its magic on the sweetened condensed milk.

Chocolate Bundt Cake (eggless)
Proportions are for a 9″ bundt cake pan. This makes a large amount of batter. Preheat oven to 375º . If you don’t need to make the cake eggless, skip the balsamic vinegar and the prunes and add 2 eggs.

2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup melted butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups milk (1/2 milk, 1/2 buttermilk)
1/4 cup stewed prunes (date puree or applesauce would also work)

In a large measuring cup, melt the butter (microwave), then stir in milk, vinegar, vanilla and prunes. Then sift the dry ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to blend well. On low power, slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Once you’ve got a little moisture in there you can turn up the mixer and not have flour flying around everywhere. Let it mix vigorously for a few minutes.

Spray the bundt pan well with non-stick spray. Pour in cake mix and bake until a toothpick/skewer comes out clean. Let cool completely before attempting to turn it out of the pan. Even with a ton of non-stick spray I still lost thin patches of cake, but that will be covered up by the dulce de leche (or whatever you frost it with). For a good review of bundt pans go here (you’ll need to sign up for a free trial to see the whole article if you’re not a member).

Penne Primavera

I’ve been having trouble with wine lately. Not the fun kind of trouble, like <insert posh accent> “Oh you simply MUST try this lovely red we picked up on our last visit to Sonoma/Provence/Piedmont…such a PITY it’s our last bottle”. Or, “...we have GOT to get our architect to design us a larger wine cellar…”  As if.

No, my wine troubles are more like this conversation between me and my body: “WTF body, you used to love red wine…remember the time we toured little wineries in Sonoma with Bob? Remember when we all learned what a real zinfandel was? What happened?”

My body answers, “What do you want? We’re 43 now. We can’t eat whatever we want and still feel 20-something! Especially since you can’t be bothered to exercise me very often. Geez. No respect”.  Gulp, ok, guilty on the last charge. My punishment? Reflux,  a rapid heartbeat and big time flushing.  Sigh. But a least I can still cook with wine!

And no self-respecting red sauce should be without a healthy dose of red vino to deglaze the pan and add flavour depth. Experts disagree on how long you need to keep your dish cooking to burn off the alcohol, some say 20-30 seconds and some say it must boil for several minutes or simmer for a few hours! So if alcohol is something you really need to stay away from, check out this handy table. It’s from Wikipedia so use it as you will…I tried to link to the US Dept of Agriculture Nutrient Laboratory who did the study but the link was corrupt. Fortunately for me, I don’t have to worry that much about it but I thought it was interesting.

So throw some veggies in a pan with some onion, garlic and olive oil, add some basil and oregano, deglaze with some wine and a can of diced tomatoes and go to town!! You can add a touch of cream near the end if you like….or not. It’s super yummy and perfect for spring.

Pasta Primavera

3-4 cups diced vegetables (eg peppers, zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower etc)
1 onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 19oz can diced tomatoes
1 19oz can tomato sauce (ie pureed tomatoes)
2 tsp dried basil (or 2 tbsp chopped fresh)
2 tsp dried oregano ( or 2 tbsp chopped fresh)
1/3 cup red wine
pinch sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
Short pasta, like penne, farfalle, rigatoni.

Dice onion and vegetables roughly the same size. Toss in a deep skillet with some olive oil and a few grinds of pepper on med-high heat. Sauté for 4-5 minutes and add the minced garlic and the herbs. Sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add wine and let it bubble for about a minute and then add in the tomatoes and a pinch of sugar (and cream). Turn down the heat, add the cooked pasta, salt to taste, and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes to allow the flavour to permeate the pasta. Garnish with grated parmesan and serve.

In our family, we fish out the pasta for Evan so he gets all the flavour but none of the ‘lumps’ of vegetables. We give him a small dish of the vegetable sauce in a separate dish that he usually doesn’t touch but it’s served to him anyway. One day he’ll try it…