We are at our best in the kitchen when the fridge is near-empty and the pantry almost bare. It's like our own personal version of Chopped, but with no time limit and more pedestrian ingredients (and the judges tend to be a lot more forgiving!).
We can actually feel more inspired as the bounty in our refrigerator wanes, as if our creativity fluctuates in inverse proportion to how much food we have around. This makes for some particularly creative dinners right before vacations, right after getting back from vacations, and whenever we just don't have the will to trek to the grocery store.
I think this is because plenty can be overwhelming. It is much simpler and more straightforward to build a meal out of a few ingredients than out of twenty. With fewer ingredients, there are fewer possible permutations. More ingredients simply creates a greater web of complexity.
Beyond pure creativity, it is helpful to have a few good dishes memorized. Dishes that are mutable and simple--that can be molded around the ingredients you have.
One of our favorite stand-by dishes is hash. Hash can be made with a wide variety of ingredients. We usually start with potatoes, then fill in with other vegetables and meat, if we have any. In this case, we were able to use findings from our latest farmers’ market trip.
We hesitate to even give a recipe for hash--especially one that uses favas and golden beets--because it runs the risk of seeming precious. While this is a very of-the-moment hash, you can take the basic recipe and run full steam ahead in a million different directions. Have summer squash or eggplant? Use that. Have fennel, carrots, or peppers? Go for it. We simply used what we had on hand--you should do the same. Having said that, the combination of potatoes, golden beets, and favas works especially well. The dense, earthy sweetness of the golden beets enlivens the starchy potatoes, and the tender fava beans give it a nice fresh flavor.
Farmers’ Market Hash
In a large skillet over medium-low heat, render slowly until crisp:
4 slices thick-cut bacon
While the bacon cooks, prepare the beets. Steam until fork-tender, about 10 minutes:
2 small golden beets (about 8 ounces), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 3/8 to 1/2-inch cubes
When the bacon is cooked, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Pour off and reserve all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Increase the heat to medium and add to the skillet:
1 pound potatoes (any variety), cut into 3/8 to 1/2-inch cubes
Cover and cook the potatoes for 8 minutes, then uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until fork-tender and nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes more.
Add the beets to the skillet along with:
A handful of sliced mushrooms (2 to 3 ounces)--we used shiitakes, but almost any kind of mushroom will work
5 garlic scapes, chopped (or 3 garlic cloves, minced)
Cook until the mushrooms and garlic scapes have softened, about 5 minutes.
Coarsely chop or crumble the cooked bacon and add to the skillet along with:
1 cup shelled fava beans (from about 1 pound fava beans in the shell)*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more to allow the flavors to meld. Serve topped with:
4 fried eggs
*Once you've shelled the favas, remove the tough skins by briefly blanching them in rapidly boiling water, then drain and run cold water over them. The beans will pop out of the skins easily. An alternative, if you can find them, is to buy shelled, frozen fava beans. They are readily available at Middle Eastern markets and some supermarkets.