Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Summer Kitchen

My two favourite weather terms I've learned living in Southern California are 'May Gray' and 'June Gloom.'  These are conditions where the marine layer (similar to fog) is so thick, you awaken in the morning to grey skies and a cool nip in the air.  Some days the marine layer breaks up in the late morning and the sun will finally poke its rays out, and sometimes you won't see the sun until mid-to-late afternoon.  It's been so thick that we've had days where the gray and gloom last all day long.  So far in this month of May, there has been little gray.  In fact, we're about to have a few days of 90 degree plus weather.  My phone told me today that it was 99 degrees at 4pm. Too early, too much, too soon.

I'm pretty sure I've written about it before...when the temps start creeping towards triple digits, I hate to cook.   Yes, I will admit that I have moments of insanity when I turn on the oven to a blazing 450 degrees in crazy hot Summer weather because the craving for pizza won't abate or I can't be without cake for dessert.
But if the weather is consistently hot, this is where I turn to the Summer Kitchen.  

In the Summer Kitchen, I happily subsist on antipasti platters--sometimes for lunch, sometimes for dinner, sometimes both in the same day.  The fridge will be stocked with olives, cheese, salami, and roasted red pepper strips (made when the weather was friendlier).  Of course, there are always salads made with no hard and fast rules about what to add.  Fruits, vegetables, cold pasta, rice, and no frou frou dressings.  A drizzle of good olive oil and a splash of vinegar or lemon juice will do.

Then there are the minimal cooking options:  no sauteing, no sweating onions.  No more energy used than what it takes to boil a pot of water, okay...maybe two.  One pot to blanch some Fava beans and the other to cook a handful of cous cous.  You can eat this as a side dish, or if you top a salad with it, you'll have a light, summer meal.

Cous Cous with Fava Bean Smash
Serves 2

1 cup shelled Fava beans
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup olives
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 cup cous cous, prepared
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the cous cous and set aside.  If you have already prepared fava beans (I've heard that Trader Joe's carries them cooked and vacuum packed), you don't have to  worry about shelling them.  Some people are turned off by having to do the work, but it's really not too bad and not terribly time-consuming.  If you have fresh beans still in the pod, remove the beans from the pods.  Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the beans.  Blanche beans for about 4-5 minutes.  Prepare a bowl of ice water and after blanching the beans, spoon them into the ice water.  To shell the blanched beans, you can either cut a small slit along the edge or pinch an edge to break open the shell and squeeze out the bean.  

Place the shelled beans in a small bowl and with the back of a fork, smash the beans to a paste.  Add the olive oil a little at a time to make the paste a little smoother.  Add salt and pepper, as necessary.  

Divide the cous cous between two plates or bowls, adding the tomato and olives.  Use whatever olives you like, I had dry oil-cured black and cracked Greek green olives on hand.  Spoon the Fava smash atop the cous cous.  Sprinkle with feta and lemon zest (or add the lemon zest to the Fava bean smash).  Salt and pepper to taste.  

As I mentioned before, if you make a big salad, this is amazing mixed in.  I love the slight warmth of the cous cous with the cold, crisp salad leaves.

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