Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Sunday cooking - a fava appetizer & a collards dinner.

Sundays are great days for doing a little bit more in the kitchen.  You can lazily approach a multi-step dish, making components throughout the day as you go along.  I don't usually stray too far from home on Sundays.  This past Sunday was a serious day in my kitchen!  First up, braided lemon bread (soooo tasty).  Then, later in the day, we had an awesome snack while I prepared a more elaborate dinner: fava bean spread on toast!  Dinner: ricotta-stuffed collard greens with marinara!

 The fava bean spread was easy and inspired by the Italian flavors that pair so well with favas.  I also consulted an old Kim O'Donnel recipe to make sure I wasn't missing anything.  Her recipe involves lots of chopped hearty greens, such as arugula.  I didn't have them, but I didn't fret - I knew our puree would be excellent without them!  How could it not be, when there are fava beans to love.  You may recall that I have a slight obsession with the lovely fava.  See my prior fava post, including information on how to remove the favas from their pods (step 1) and also from their skins (step 2).

After we ate our fava snack and popped open a bottle of syrah, I got down to business with the collard greens.  This is a recipe that I have enjoyed before, and I stayed pretty true to it, with only a few modifications.  The texture of the collards is just perfect for stuffing.  They retain their structure in the oven, and they taste fresh and delicious.  I would highly recommend this recipe - even the sauce is a keeper!

Fava Puree
I used one small brown bag of favas in their pods, probably about 3/4 of a pound - I would recommend using even more, because 1 pound of fava pods will yield one cup or less of beans.  So take advantage of the favas while they are around! 

Remove the favas from their spongy outer pod.  Bring a pot of water to a boil; add the fava beans and cook for three to four minutes, then remove from the stove and plunge immediately in an ice water bath.  Drain and pop the beans from their skins (you can just use your fingers to pop them out).

Add the favas to a food processor and pulse a few times to make a chunky fava puree.  Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil (or more or less to taste), two to three tablespoons of finely shredded parmesan, a bit of lemon zest (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon grated), a couple squeezes of lemon juice (about 1 tablespoon), a bit of salt and plenty of pepper.  You can also add a couple leaves of fresh mint (I did not).

Spread on toast and enjoy!

Ricotta-and-Veggie-Stuffed Collard Greens with Marinara
Adapted from Gourmet, via Epicurious

1 cup chopped yellow onion (I used two small spring onions from the box)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons red wine (pick one you like to drink!)
28-oz can of crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted for extra oomph)
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon herbes de provence or other mix of Italian-type herbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
dash of red pepper flakes (the kind you use on pizza)

1 bunch of large collard green leaves (at least 10 large leaves, plus extra for patching any holes)
7 oz. ricotta (use one with flavor!); about 1/2 a regular 15 oz. container
1/4 pound mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch dice (I used fresh mozzarella)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels (rinsed in warm water and patted dry to thaw), or use fresh corn
4 green onions, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced

To make the sauce: Heat the butter over medium heat, and add the onion and cook until translucent and tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes.  Then add the remaining ingredients - tomatoes, sugar, herbs, and red pepper flakes, plus salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Spread in the bottom of a baking dish (ceramic or glass, about 13x9 inches).

To make the rolls: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  While the sauce simmers, bring a large, deep pot of water to a boil (I used a stock pot).  Add the collard greens and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until tender but not falling apart.  Remove with tongs and place in a bowl of cold water.  Spread out on a kitchen towel to dry.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta, mozzarella, egg, bell pepper, corn, and green onions, plus salt and pepper to taste.  To make a roll, pat dry one large collard leaf.  Slice out the middle rib, cutting about 1/3 of the way into the leaf.  Place about 2 tablespoons of the filling in the top third of the leaf (opposite of the stem end).  To roll, pull the top part of the leaf up and over the filling, then tuck the sides in and roll up the rest of the way (like rolling a mini burrito).  Place the roll in the baking dish, on top of the sauce.  Roll the remainder of the leaves in the same manner, using any smaller leaves to patch any holes or tears.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the sauce is hot and bubbling and the rolls are hot all the way through.  Serve with rice or another grain,with sauce spooned over the rolls.

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