My current internship has certain perks. It's unpaid, yes, but I do get to go to fancy breakfasts with famous director speakers, or movie premiers with cast members of The Office making jokes ten feet away from me! In fact, I feel like I've been a little too starstruck lately. I mean, referring to the director of "Milk" as Gus, just like he's my best friend? It's a little iffy.
So I was extremely happy when I arrived at the Saturday Farmer's Market and I was just as excited to see a beautiful bunch of pink-stemmed chard as I had been to John Krasinki. Maybe there's hope for me after all.
I was also happy when I was invited to a dinner that night that involved, among many delicious foods, a pasta made with hand-milled acorn flour (tossed with herbs and goat cheese - delicious), and a rose petal jam, sweet and sticky next to a creamy round of cheese that went fabulously with it.
But I was happiest when I arrived back in the city Sunday evening, my bag of market booty overflowing, and the house empty of all distractions except for a chopping board.
I opened my last bottle of Fraoch that Ian had brought me and set to work on the fava beans.
Favas are new to me. I'd often see the lumpy pods overflowing from market stands, but I never really knew what they were, or what to do with them.
Finally I did the simple thing: ask. Apparently they can be eaten raw, straight from the pod. They can be tossed in salads. They can be lightly sautéed. I stopped there, even though the list, of course, goes on. Sautéed was good enough for me.
So that night, I popped favas out of their green pods. I discovered the soft, furry insides of the pods, and the satisfying ping of the beans as they bounced into a metal bowl. I sautéed the beans quickly with a garlic clove and a few grated zucchini, adding some lemon zest at the final moment. Alongside the barbeque chicken we were having, the beans were perfect. Fresh and bright with the lemon, the beans kept their shape and a satisfying chew, while the grated zucchini clung all over for added texture.
So this week, I bought more. More fava beans, and more unknowns. Specifically green garlic. I've read about it so much, and skipped over so many recipes including it because it seemed so, I don't know, fussy I guess.
Since they don't sell it in stores, green garlic is one of those special foods that people wait for each spring, anticipating the soft yet familiar bite of garlic as they much on the entire head of garlic. Because apparently, it's all edible. With the most tender of stalks, which is what I had stumbled upon, you can eat every last nubbin (except for maybe those dry looking hairy parts, I'd expect that to be rather unpleasant). No peeling of cloves, no loose flutters of lacey garlic casings floating around - just slice the whole thing, looking out for the same design as when cutting a grapefruit in half.
I also bought familiar things: a fat purple onion, dainty asparagus, and the chard I mentioned above.
I knew it would all come together perfectly in a pan, the flavors complementing and melding as the heat encouraged and changed them.
It's really the simplest of concepts: buy the freshest of ingredients that arrive the same time at the market, and they will need little extra to be delicious. With an egg to tie everything together, dinner can practically make itself.
Spring Vegetables with an Imperfectly Fried Farm Egg
Go to the Farmer's Market. Choose what looks good to you. Perhaps a few small onions. Perhaps crisp asparagus, or a fluffy bunch of greens. Grab a stalk or two of green garlic. If you see any zucchini, get those too. And don't forget the fava beans, if available.
Prepare your vegetables. It doesn't matter if they are all the same size. Break the asparagus here and there. Cut the onion in jagged half moons. Shell the beans. Grate the zucchini, or perhaps cut it into matchsticks. Variety is good. Change is good.
Heat some olive oil. Start with the onion, if you're using it. Let it soften slowly, gently. Toss in your vegetables, starting with the harder ones like asparagus, ending with anything leafy you might want to add. Season. Stir. Wait.
Give it ten minutes or so, till everything is yielding to the heat but hasn't lost all its crispness. If you have some herbs from your garden, or perhaps your neighbor's garden, add them. Extra flavors are good but not essential. It you have a lemon, grate some zest in.
In another pan, heat a bit of oil or butter and fry an egg or two per person. It's okay if the yolk breaks in the pan, it happens.
Pile the vegetables generously on plates. When the whites have set in the egg but the yolks are still runny, place the egg on top of the vegetables. If you have any parmesan, a grating of that would go well here. And maybe a few grinds of pepper.
It's Spring, and everything's changing.