52 Foods Week Twenty Nine: Torpedo Onion

Scouring the Farmers’ Market for an interesting ingredient, we came upon the intriguing torpedo onions offered by Towani Organic Farm. Long and purple, torpedo onions are a milder onion with a hint of sweetness and a slightly garlicky flavor. Like other onions that have passed through my care, they looked like great candidates for grilling. We decided to pair them with some goat cheese and pancetta in a sandwich.

I began by trimming the ends of the onions and slicing each one in half lengthwise.

Trimmed and Halved

We brushed the insides with olive oil, and placed them cut side down on the Weber just to the side of the hot mesquite coals.

Torpedo Onions on the Grill

Meanwhile, I sliced up some Bledsoe pancetta and cooked it slowly on the stovetop.

Panned 'Cetta

The onions cooked about 15 minutes, ’til the edges were curled and starting to char. Then we flipped them. The cut sides had beautiful grill marks.

A Little Charring

We sliced some Octoberfeast Rillen Zelm bread on the diagonal, and brushed it with olive oil.

Sliced Bread

We put the bread directly over the coals to toast for a couple minutes on each side.

Toasted Bread

We pulled the bread and onions from the grill, and drained the pancetta. Then spread some Laura Chenel Chabis on each slice of bread.

Goat Cheese

We fanned the onions out and placed them on one slice and the pancetta on the other.

Sandwich Making

Finally, we stacked and skewered the sandwiches, sliced them in half and enjoyed them alongside some Oregon Pinot Noir. These were tasty sandwiches, and the onions really worked well with the goat cheese. The grilling had softened them nicely, but they retained some body. They had a nice balance of pungent and sweet flavors. I would dare say that in this sandwich the pancetta was almost an afterthought and could have been omitted entirely.

Grilled Torpedo Onion Sandwich

All the photos are here.

52 Foods Week Sixteen: Fava Beans

Shortly after we married, Jen and I built a planter box. It was the tail end of summer, and we planted some flowers to decorate for her birthday, knowing that the next spring we would use the planter in earnest for some vegetables. To protect the soil from an invasion of weeds, we needed a cover crop for fall and winter. From the many options at the nursery, we chose fava beans, looking forward to a tasty crop of beans in the middle of winter. The beans grew quickly—almost alarmingly fast—until December, when Portland was beset by a week or more of White Christmas. The freeze killed the fava beans, whose vigorous stalks seemed to melt with the snow into a sad What-Could-Have-Been.

Other planter box

That winter was the closest I’ve ever come to cooking fava beans, until this week. Strolling the Wednesday Farmers’ Market, which still consists mostly of citrus, I was excited to see that Vue Family Farm had a large pile of robust favas for a mere $1 a bunch. I snapped up one bunch, then added a second. I’m very glad I got the second bunch, because I had not realized how little of the large pods is actually filled with edible bean.

We chose to make “Roman Style” fava beans, which are simply fava beans, onion and pancetta fried together with a little salt and pepper. Incidentally, “Roman Style” is pretty much code for frying things. Rome sounds great. The first step towards our Faba Romana was to shell the beans. The insides of the pods are soft and wooly, and each bean is nicely nestled into its own spot, attached on alternating sides of the pod.

Nestled in a Wooly Shell

Once we had extracted the beans, we blanched them to make removal of their skins easier. The outer skin can be left on while cooking, to be removed by the diner, but since we were mixing them with other things, it seemed easier not to have to deal with that after the fact. Once they were blanched, removing the skins was as easy as gently squeezing them till the bean slid out.

Skinning the Bean

Soon we had a small bowlful of shelled and skinned fava beans that were a shadow of their former bulk.

Skinned Favas

I cut off about a quarter pound of Bledsoe Meats’ pancetta, and sliced it into thick pieces, about 3/4″ square by 1/4″ thick. I threw these in a skillet and cooked them over medium heat until they began to get crispy, and their fat had melted into the pan, about 12 minutes.

Getting Crispy

I then added the onions and cooked them with the pancetta for about 5 more minutes before adding the fava beans.

Add the Fava Beans

The beans only needed to cook another 3 minutes or so. I added a dash of salt and a few turns of the pepper mill, tossed it all around once more and it was ready to eat.

Ready to Eat

These were really good by the forkful as well on some toasted bavarian bread from OctoberFeast Bakery out of Berkeley, CA. As I dug in, Jen assured me I would love Rome.

Roman Style Favas on Toast
All the photos are here, and the pizza we followed it with is here.