Here is a description of the contents of your box, and some suggestions on how prepare them.
Mesclun/salad mix: Just so you know, mesclun is French for mixed salad. Sounds fancy, but it’s just salad mix. It needs to be washed and spun. It has arugula, frilly red mustard, tango and green romaine lettuces. The other half of your salad bag is green and red little gems.
The bag of mixed wilting greens is half filled with red chard. The other half is fava leaves. This will be your last time getting them, as the plants are maturing, and warm to hot days we are experiencing will quickly change their flavor in a not so nice way. Best to pull the leaves off their tough stem, wash and use in pasta. I recommend making a pasta dish with the fava leaves, some spring onions and green garlic. Consider tearing some of the mint leaves into the pasta right before you serve it, so it’s essentially raw, wilting with the heat of the pasta. There’s something special about mint as an accent to favas and peas. Also consider zesting a lemon into the pasta.
Fava beans are one of two signature items this week. With two pounds in the box, you will have enough to make a small dish, as opposed to merely decorating the plate with them. The classic Italian dish of shucked and peeled favas with shaved pecorino, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and fresh cracked black pepper is what I recommend. First take all the beans out of their pods. You can blanch them in boiling water for 5-10 seconds at the most, then immediately put them in cold water. This makes the skin super easy to peel. But it also slightly cooks the inside part of bean, which is less than ideal for the perfect fava salad. If you have the patience, peel the skin off with your fingernails, splitting the bean into the two halves as you go. Watch as your little bowl slowly fills with the shucked and peeled favas. Good music and a glass of Chianti will make the task more pleasant. I found a good link online to demonstrate this process.
The other signature item is the wild fennel that I harvested from a hillside in San Francisco. It’s the key ingredient in a classic Italian pasta with sardines. Dave Gould, the former chef of Romans in Brooklyn, gave me the following recipe for his version of pasta con le sarde:
Start by bringing your pasta cooking pot to a boil with a few pinches of salt. Boil the wild fennel in this water for about 5 minutes, pull out the fennel to drain and reserve liquid for the noodles later.
Start a wide pot on a medium flame with a few glugs of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed, skin on. Cook until garlic is light golden and remove from the pan and discard or eat. Add a few tablespoons of rinsed capers, some pine nuts, a pinch of oregano and a few cracks of black pepper and cook gently until pine nuts lightly toast. Lower the flame and add a few anchovies, swirling until they melt a bit. Now add some crushed tomatoes, raisins, a pinch of saffron and the wild fennel, which you have squeezed dry and chopped fine. Cook until the water evaporates and the sauce is beginning to sizzle in the oil a little. Now you’re ready to cook your noodles. Pull them from the pot (bucatini or spaghetti) when they are about 4 minutes from being cooked and add them to your sauce. Begin cooking and seasoning with salt as you go, adding additions of pasta water if the pan becomes dry. Fold in some good canned sardines at about 2 minutes out. They should begin to crumble into the sauce, but ideally not turn into a paste.
When finished turn the flame off. Fold in some Fresh olive oil and briefly stir to incorporate and plate. A traditional garnish would be bread crumbs toasted on the darker side of the color spectrum w a little olive oil and salt. It’s just as good without the bread crumbs.
You have a generous bunch of wild zaatar in your box. It’s almost like oregano, or marjoram, but with it’s own distinct flavor. While you should use some in it’s fresh state, I highly recommend you take most of it, give it a rinse to shake off any sand or dirt, and let it fully dry on your window sill or kitchen counter. As a dried herb, it’s more balanced in flavor, and will last you a long time. Maybe you are familiar with Italian packages of dried marjoram on the stem. This will be your homemade version of that. When it’s fully dried, you can keep it handy to pinch off a few leaves for a myriad of uses in your kitchen.