Californian Escalavida

September 11, 2011

I collapsed into the couch, feeling half guilty for doing so and knowing full well that I should be heading to the grocery store so that we wouldn’t end up eating some semblance of vegetables and condiments for dinner.  A pile of mail was laying on the coffee table next to my head and I began to rifle through – this week’s edition of this and that interior design catalog, a note from a friend, and a package from Jessica’s Biscuit. Hooray! My signed of edition of Tartine Bread had FINALLY arrived, after literally months of dickering with the customer service agent that informed me that my book had been backordered, then forgotten, then sent to the wrong address, then at last would be en route to me — just miles away from the bakery itself (where I probably could have sauntered in and purchased another copy for $20 more than I had paid already.)

Perfect timing.

I intend to dig more deeply into this fantastic tome on patience, yeast, gluten, steam, surfing and finding delicate balances this fall when I agree to turn on our oven again to bake bread. But, I ripped open the packaging and flipped through the pages, admiring the photos, taking note of the bread formulas and technique notes, and skipping to the back where there were recipes for dishes that INCLUDED bread. One caught my eye and in an instant, I was transported back to Catalonia and Spain last fall. I was also excused from guilt for not heading to the grocery store as literally everything that we needed to create this simple, healthy, and slightly exotic meal were already in our kitchen.

Catalonians enjoy this dish as a side with meats – we turned it into an entire meal served at room temperature and therefore perfect for a late summers’ evening. Escalivar literally means, in Catalan, to roast over embers and Chad Robertson, the author of Tartine Bread, follows suit, adding a few classically Spanish ingredients (grilled eggplants and red peppers) to the dish and utilizing a traditional cooking method — we did a bit of improv and were over the moon about the result. We have a grill pan that works wonders and we used it for the patty pan squash and fava beans. If you choose to grill the squash on an outdoor grill, you might think about slicing them in long strips and then chopping them once cooked so that they don’t fall through the grate or the grill basket. The fava beans will do swimmingly if cooked in a cast iron skillet on the grill.

One of our favorite parts of the dish was the anchoiade, or hand-ground dressing that truly makes the vegetables burst with new flavors. We have made this dish on several other occasions, mixing up the vegetables -this week with avocados, tomatoes, patty pan squash and green beans – and sometimes adding garbanzo beans, or even poached eggs. But always, always, tossing in chunks of toasted bread and mopping up the anchoiade at the bottom of our bowls with the lovely crusts.

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