Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Not Every Day Is Gourmet

Okay -- I admit it finally, I have been working out of town for the last few weeks. James' dinners have been a series of carefully labeled stews, bean dishes and easy-to-bake-from-frozen casseroles I left in the freezer for him along with a detailed "fridgeventory" describing the location and cooking method of all his future dinners. James eats while I pine for him in a hotel "kitchen" that consists of a two-burner electric hot plate from around the middle of the last century, a low-wattage microwave, and a fridge so small that it would be embarrassed by most Holiday Inn mini-bars.
But now His Highness has come to visit and this kitchen, as the hotel proprietors would call it, has to rocket into action.
Luckily I'm close to the local farmers market and, although it's still a bit cold for spring fruits, peas and asparagus here in Northern New Mexico, I found winter greens, lettuces and quite a few near-by growers of grass fed meats, pastured dairy produced farmstead cheeses, and locally made pork sausages flavored with my choice of New Mexico green chiles or garlic.
But, best of all, just when I am missing the garden and the "girls" and our little animal family . . . James got off the plane with a bag of fava beans picked that morning from our front yard (street side) garden. These fresh green pods were barely past delicate black and white flowers when I left and now they hold delicately flavored fresh tasting beans. Normally fava beans have to be blanched and peeled of the bean's thick outer skin before being used in recipes. Only the smallest, youngest and freshest beans can be used straight from the pod.
For this simple late night hotel sauté I sliced the sausage along with an onion and several cloves of garlic and popped them into a frying pan with a splash of olive oil over medium-low heat while I baked potatoes in the mini-microwave. About 7 minutes in I tossed in the fava beans.
Truth be told, all things being equal, I'd have liked to cook over medium-high heat. After all these years on the restaurant-style stove I have come to appreciate and rely on the quick-cooking, high heat 18,000 BTUs can provide. But, another quirk of the hotel kitchen -- there is no exhaust fan. In fact unless I open the window and the door even boiling water for tea can set off the room's smoke alarm. And, as I found out late one Saturday night when I met three charming, handsome men in uniform from the local fire department, the alarm can only be turned off by a central switch in the hotel office which is only maned until 9 pm. You can't imagine the melodic tone a smoke alarm makes after 45 minutes. But, I digress . . .
Simple as can be I tossed some fresh lettuce leaves with olive oil, lemon juice, grated parmesan cheese, and S&P for a side salad. Opened the baked potatoes (a variety called Mountain Rose with delicate pink streaks through the otherwise creamy yellow flesh) and ladled on the combination from the frying pan, left to sauté just until the sausage was cooked through. Drizzled with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with salt this wasn't a fancy dinner but the big man has already asked for it again. Call it my room service success.

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