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Farmer's Market Hash

I am at my best in the kitchen when the fridge is near-empty and the pantry almost bare. It's like my own personal version of Chopped, except with no time limit and more pedestrian ingredients (and the judges tend to be a lot more forgiving!).

I actually feel more inspired as the bounty in our refrigerator wanes, as if my personal creativity fluctuates in inverse proportion to how much food we have around. This makes me a particularly useful cook right before vacations, right after getting back from vacations, and whenever we just don't have the force of will to trek to the grocery store (which, given that our closest grocery store is a block away, is surprisingly often).

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 disparate ones. With fewer ingredients, there are fewer possible permutations. More ingredients simply creates a greater web of complexity from which you must distill a cohesive dish.

We always have certain staples around--lots of beans and grains, several types of rice, a few canned steadfasts such as tuna and chickpeas. These are great for providing backbone to an otherwise potentially formless meal. But beyond that, it is helpful to have a few good recipes in the back of your head. Recipes that are mutable and simple--that can be molded around the ingredients you have.

One of my favorites, and one that has been useful to me in times of scarcity, is hash. Hash is wonderful in that it can be made with a wide variety of ingredients. I usually start with potatoes, then fill in with other vegetables and meats that are more dear. In this case, I was able to use findings from our latest farmer's market voyage.

I 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, I think 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? Do it. I simply used what I have 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 really enlivens the starchy potatoes, and the tender, herbaceous fava beans make it feel more like a spring dish than something made from the casualties of winter. 

Other articles you might enjoy: Fava Bean Succotash, Spring Strata With Greens and Garlic Scapes, Garlic Scapes

Farmer's Market Hash
Serves 4

Render the bacon. In a large skillet over medium-low heat, render slowly until crisp:
           4 slices (about 1/4 pound) thick-cut bacon
While the bacon cooks, prepare the beets. Steam until fork-tender, about 10 minutes:
           2 medium golden beets (about 8 ounces), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 3/8 to 1/2-inch cubes
When the bacon is cooked, remove to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off and reserve all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Raise the heat to medium and add to the skillet:
           1 pound potatoes (any variety), cut into 3/8 to 1/2-inch cubes
Cook the potatoes covered for 8 minutes, then remove the lid and continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a metal spatula, until fork-tender and nicely browned, about 10 to 12 minutes more.
Add the beets to the skillet along with:
           A handful of sliced mushrooms (about 2-3 ounces)--we used shiitakes, but almost any kind of mushroom will work
           5 garlic scapes, chopped (or, add 3 minced cloves of garlic)
Cook until the mushrooms and garlic scapes have softened, about 5 minutes.
Roughly chop or crumble the cooked bacon and add to the skillet along with:
           1 cup, or about 4 ounces, shelled fava beans (from about 1 pound fava bean pods)*
           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, a good way to remove the tough and bitter skins from the beans is to briefly blanch 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.

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