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Monday, April 25, 2005

Bulls and Beans


This entry was going to be about the fantastic food at last weekend's Portuguese bullfight. Unfortunately, there was nothing, foodwise, to write about. No spicy octopus stew. No deep-fried sardines. No linguica sandwiches. Oh, there was a marinated pork sandwich that Seth and I shared, but it wasn't anything to blog about. Dang it!

Part of the whole excitement about going down to the Central Valley for the Festival Taurino/Festa de Santo Antao was the great Portuguese food we would be having. Instead, I ended up having bland chorizo and eggs at the Mexican restaurant next door to the Placa de Toiros, or bullring. Too bad, because Seth and I had told our companheiros, Bill and Tania, all about how great the food was going to be. Later on, after a brief conversation with the woman sitting in front of us, we found out that the good food comes out later in the season. Well Geez! You'd think they could put that on the flyer! Still, I guess we have until October to get our bullfight grub on.

I think Seth, Bill, and Tania thought I was a little nuts for wearing a cowboy hat to the bullfight. That is, until we actually approached the gates and standing there were 5 or six big Portagees all with cowboy hats on. Later on, I let Tania be the honorary cowgirl since she looked better in it than I did.

For those of you who've never been, the Portuguese bullfights, or corridos, occur from April to the end of October and coincide with religious festivals, or festas, of the Catholic Church. Beyond coinciding with the religious aspect, the corridos are a cultural event that brings together the Portuguese American community in California, most of whom are centralized in the San Joaquin Valley and most who are originally from the Azores (Acores). The Portuguese corridos, unlike the Spanish and Mexican corridos, are bloodless and focus mostly on the skill and bravery of the participants. There is usually a full brass band and the participants vary, depending on the type of corridor. Usually there are three acts: the matador, the cavaleiro (rider on horseback), and the forcados (don't ask). For the Festival Taurino, there were only the cavaleiros (a father and sons team from the Azores) and the forcados from Turlock.

However, let's get something straight: I came for the food. Yes, it's great to be at a cultural event such as this and cheer on the bravery (or insanity?) of the guys about to be head-butted by a ton of pissed off bull, but I'm more interested in what that bull might look like on my plate. So yes, I was a little disappointed that this time we had to eat (surprisingly) mediocre Mexican food next door instead of eating good Portuguese food inside. But at least I was in good company. And at least I was comforted in knowing that, because this was really a warm-up to future festas, the food would be getting better later on in the season.

As far as beverages go, you are looking at sodas, beer (Bud light) and wine (Carlo Rossi, straight out of the gallon bottle). Fortunately I was able to get in a bottle of good tawny Port, which we enjoyed along with Portuguese cookies I made, called Rosquilhas Secas or Dry Rings. It was a good thing I brought the cookies, since we were able to share some with the couple in front of us who, in return, offered us some blackberry brandy (and I guess, according to Tania, a little gossip about one of the forcados?).

Blackberry brandy...yum! Of course we were discrete with the drink, though I did flash my homemade cookies around in front of the eyes of the hungry crowd, purely for the showoff effect.

Hey, I was just seeing who might charge! Ole!

Rosquilhas Secas

2 tablespoons of yeast
½ cup of warm water
1 cup of milk
2 sticks (1 cup) of butter
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 large, room-temp eggs
5 cups of flour

1. In a small cup, disolve the yeast in the water and set aside for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the milk with the butter and sugar in a one-quart saucepan. Place over medium-low heat until butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.
2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the hot milk. Mix in 2 cups of the flour. Add the disolved yeast and enough of the remaining flour to form a medium-textured dough. Knead in the bowl until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover well and set aside in a warm place to rise untile doubled in size.
3. Repeat the last process then preheat oven to 350 degrees.
4. When ready, pinch off golf ball size pieces and using a gentle touch, roll into balls, then rolling into ropes about 6 inches long. Make the rope into a circle and pinch the ends together. Widen the inside of the ring with your fingers to make a shape that resembles a bagel or a donut. Place on a baking sheet (preferably on top of a Silpat).
4. Place in the oven and bake at 350 for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 300 and bake until they begin to color. At this point, lower the heat to 250 and bake another hour.
5. After an hour, turn off the oven, but leave the cookies in to dry out. Don't let the cookies get dark brown. They should be dry, but not hard and overbaked.

At this point you can eat as is or decorate with a frosting. I spritzed them with water and dusted with powdered sugar, then I let them sit for a while to cool. Put them in a paper lunch bag and loaded them up for the road trip down to the Central Valley.


This last week has been centered around the fava bean as I've found a shop in Chinatown that sells them at 79 cents (sometimes 59 cents) per pound. Apparently, the fava bean is also known in Chinese cuisine as the horse bean, where it is made into a spicy bean paste called dau ban jeung. But when I see the fava bean, I often see a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a conundrum.

What to do? Well, I did come of up with two recipes, and guess what? I'm going to share them with you here.

Horse Bean aka Fava Bean

But before I do, did you know that fava beans are potentially fatal to some people? Favism is an inherited disease in which a person lacks an enzyme called glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD). When these people, usually of Mediterranean, African, and Southeast Asian descent, eat fava beans, they develop a condition called hemolytic anemia. This anemia causes red blood cells to break apart and block blood vessels. When such blockage occurs in the kidneys, it can result in kidney failure and even death. The good news is that the majority people find out they have this condition in childhood, but if you are concerned about possibly having it, your doctor can perform a blood test to see if you're at risk.

Also, some people are allergic to raw fava beans and eating them, in extreme cases, can result in a coma. It is believed, though, that cooking counteracts the allergic factor in the beans.

Lastly, did you know that there's some research that shows that eating fava beans can help control the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease? It seems that an active chemical that occurs naturally in fava beans, called Levodopa, is the same chemical used in many medicines used to control Parkinson's Disease.

So, now that you've learned those little tidbits of useful information, here are the recipes I promised you.

What you are about to witness are my two best efforts to befriend, flirt with, and snuggle up against the bean. One note: preparing fava beans is time consuming. Think: peeling and de-veining shrimp. It's about that long.

With every recipe, you have to open the pods and remove the beans. Then you blanche/parboil the beans in boiling water for a few minutes (depending on whether they will cook longer later on). After you've removed them from the water and they've cooled a bit, you then peel the skin from the bean. Now you can use them in your recipe.

Pizza alla Broadway and Stockton Street

I dedicate this particular pizza to the produce shop at the intersection of these two streets.

First, get your pizza dough ready. Here's what I did: I added to a large bowl 2 cups of white flour, ½ cup of semolina, ½ cup of durum, 2 tablespoons of corn meal, and a little sourdough starter. Into this I added a tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and a cup of water. Since what I ended up with was too wet to work with, I kept adding white flour until I had a workable dough. I kneaded this for a minute or two and then oiled the doughball, placing it in the bowl and letting it sit in the oven with the oven light on. After about an hour or so, I punched it down. I let it rise again, then punched it, worked it into a ball, and wrapped it in plastic. I then put it in the fridge while I prepped the toppings.

The sauce is a fava bean pesto. I used about 2 cups of fava beans (that's probably about 3 pounds of fava beans in the pod). Once they were prepped (see above), I put them in the food processor, added some olive oil, some lemon juice, some roasted garlic, some salt and pepper, and some honey. I mixed this, adding just a little water to get a good spreadable consistency.

The toppings: 1 chayote (aka Buddha's Hand squash aka fat su), 1 half of a large yellow onion, 1 8" long smoked linguica link. Peel the chayote (optional) and slice horizontally into ¼" slices (the seed is edible, but you may want to remove it since it can be slightly chewy). Slice the onion the same way. Lay these out on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast these under the broiler until browned. Cut your linguica into thick coins and in a skillet of hot oil, fry up your linguica. Remove to paper towels, blot, then chop.

Remove your pizza dough from the fridge. Don't be surprised to see a dough ball about to burst from the plastic, that is if it hasn't already. Don't use a rolling pin. Instead flatten out the dough to a round pizza shape by working it with your hands, pulling and stretching and slapping it from hand to hand. Throw it up in the air, and feel like you just don't care. Say ho!!! Get that round thang in your face and slap it like a big ole behind, Sir Mix-a-lot! Be sure to avoid getting thin spots. I stretched mine out to fit a large 16" pizza screen.

Place your baking stone in the oven on a rack in the middle. I use unglazed terra cotta tiles. Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.

Spread your fava bean pesto to form an even layer on your-a pizza pie. For the cheese, I used Fontina (about 2 cups, shredded, loosely packed), plus a ½ cup grated Parmigiano Regiano. Lay down the fontina, then place your ingredients on top. Next sprinkle with the Parm. Place in the oven on top of the stone. It takes about 10 - 15 minutes, but stay with it and watch it. It can turn black really quickly! When it's done, remove from the oven and transfer from the pizza screen to a cutting board. Cut and serve.

The pizza bread has a crunchy crust but is light and airy. The pesto shines through, while the chayote and onions are a mild addition. The linguica adds a smokey flavor.

Cauliflower and Fava Bean Love Fest

Prepare your fava beans. Cut a large cauliflower up into flowerettes (I see these in Chinatown at $1.29 a head right now). Parboil them for a minute. Remove and cool under running water. Take a small bunch of basil and 2 garlic cloves. Wrap them in plastic wrap and pound the shit out of it with a rolling pin (this releases the aromatic oils). Remove from the plastic wrap and chop roughly. In a casserole dish, lay down some of the cauliflower, then some fava beans then basil/garlic mix. Repeat. Grind some pepper over. Then sprinkle with a cup of Gruyere, then some Parmigiano Regiano. Bake at 400 degrees on the top oven rack until the tops start to turn brown (feel free to turn on the broiler towards the end). Once you remove it from the oven, sprinkle lightly with coarse salt (such as Fleur de Sel) and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

I served this with pork chops that I had marinated with garlic slices, crushed juniper berries and dried pomegranate seeds (anardana). Made a pretty tasty weeknight dinner!

And that ain't no bull!


(Additional photos by Seth)


Blogger molly said...

So what's forcados?

That pizza looks awesome, I'm going to send Dr. Biggles from Meathenge over here to check out your veggies. He needs some more ideas.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Bacon Press said...

The forcados are a group of 5 or more guys who line up single file and goad the bull into charging them head on. The guy in front wears a funny green hat that looks like an elf hat and is usually the one to get pummelled the hardest. The purpose, I guess, is to subdue the bull.

It's pretty crazy if you ask me.

I had tried to post a video showing the forcados in action but the link was bad and I'm still trying to figure out how to do it.

11:28 AM  
Blogger drbiggles said...

Hey K,

You gots any fancy idears other than Fava beans? All this blanching and preparing is tough during the week. I don't get much time, ya know? And I'm getting SO DAMNED HUNGRY !!! So hungry. MMmmmmMM, salad. DAmned salad. I ate a chicken wing last night. Best thing I have had in nearly 20 days. Grrrrr.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Bacon Press said...

I'll figure something out for ya, Biggles!

In the meantime, start perfecting your stir frys and pastas.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Pope Benedict XVI said...

Delicious. Much Blessings.

7:12 PM  
Blogger drbiggles said...

Hey K,

I got plenty of hippy semolina at home. I'll get that going.
I've never been impressed with my stir frys. Mostly because I can go out to a decent Asian restaurant and get something worth eating. I've done some par boiling of the veggies before and I put my wok in a 525 degree oven to get it up to temp. It comes out 'okay'.
I made a GREAT vegetable soup last night. Came out flippin' amazing. I finished it with a squeeze of fresh lime and a locally bought corn tortilla, thick little beast. I toasted it over the open flame on my gas range. Crispy outside, creamy corn center. I had 3 bowls.


8:38 AM  

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