What do artisan cheese-making in Italy, organic meat farming in California and barbecuing in Uruguay have in common? They’re all experiences that influenced Anya Fernald’s rustic culinary style, as captured in her new book Home Cooked: Essential Recipes for a New Way to Cook.
Fernald is the co-founder and CEO of Belcampo, Inc., an innovative sustainable agriculture company that raises grass-fed, organic beef on a picturesque farm in Northern California and serves it at Belcampo Meat Co. restaurants in Los Angeles and San Francisco. While Home Cooked includes a substantial chapter on meat dishes and an in-depth primer on cooking steak, there’s more here than “meats” the eye: Fernald has equal flair with vegetarian dishes and emphasizes Italian flavors.
Her “new way to cook” actually revives old-school cooking values. After college, Fernald worked with artisanal cheese makers in rural Sicily, where she learned traditional techniques and recipes, not just for cheese, but for everything from canning and preserving vegetables to transforming tough cuts of meat into hearty ragus.
She passes on that time-honored wisdom in the “Building Blocks” chapter, which has recipes for basics like home-canned tomatoes, rendered fats, bone broths and more. These ingredients make appearances in dishes throughout the book, from stuffed zucchini blossoms in tomato sauce—which incorporates Fernald’s ricotta, sofritto and tomato passato recipes—to asparagus with fried eggs, which uses her aioli.
As expected, the meat recipes definitely sizzle. Fernald’s travels in South America sold her on wood charcoal cooking, and you’ll find many good-for-the-grill recipes to try this summer such as fennel- and black pepper-crusted pork loin and spatchcocked chicken. And Fernald’s secret to great steaks? It starts with buying the cleanest, most prime meat—of course.
But those who’d prefer to skirt the steak, so to speak, can try this standout vegetarian chickpea torte, which combines chickpeas and eggs with aromatic sage. Exemplifying “cucina povera,” the Italian art of making humble food delicious, the torte sings of being cooked at home.
2 cups dried chickpeas
Pinch of baking soda
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
20 sage leaves
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Put the chickpeas and baking soda in a medium bowl and add cold water to cover. Let soak overnight. The next day, drain and rinse the chickpeas and transfer to a heavy pot. Add water to cover by 1 inch, bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat so the liquid is simmering. Simmer until tender, 1 to 2 hours, then drain, reserving the cooking liquid, and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat ½ cup of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and half of the sage and cook, stirring often, until the onions are very soft and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Put the cooked onions and sage leaves in a food processor and add half of the cooked chickpeas. Process until almost smooth, adding a bit of the bean-cooking liquid as necessary to aid the blending. Transfer to a large bowl and add the remaining (whole) cooked chickpeas. Mince the remaining sage leaves and stir into the batter with the red pepper flakes and salt.
Using your hands, squeeze the batter to crush the whole chickpeas slightly. Stir in the eggs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Grease a 9-inch ovenproof frying pan or cake pan with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spoon the chickpea batter into the pan, smoothing the top, and bake until browned on top and set, about 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack then cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature. Serve with a salad for a light lunch or dinner.
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