Kitchen Cred The mastermind behind the ever-inventive menu at Fuel Cafe, Bob Blair hates leftovers and rarely repeats a meal at home, even though his wife, Catherine, prods him to replicate her favorites. He points to his military upbringing as the reason for his obsession with trying new things, which may explain why he "tried" several majors at the University of Northern Colorado before quitting college and pursuing a culinary career. After working his way through several kitchens, including the original Parisi, he opened Fuel in 2008.
Sentimental Mix Blair has two KitchenAid mixers, including his mom's well-loved, 30-year-old version, which he inherited after his parents died in a car crash nearly 10 years ago. "When my parents passed away," Blair says, "my siblings said, 'Mom would have wanted you to have it.' "
Cool Colors Blair and his wife waited three years to find the perfect painting for their breakfast nook. Ultimately, they hung an image by Oakland, California, artist Erin Hamilton called "I Love Toast," featuring a fantastic contrast of blue, red, and orange hues.
Pass the Pepper When it comes to grinding peppercorns, Blair uses a copper, Atlas pepper mill because "they're so easy to use, and they're fast." The mill's larger grinder yields more pepper with fewer cranks.
Quick Tip Instead of using an expensive, hard-to-clean decanter to aerate wine, Blair suggests using a regular water pitcher. His favorite is a handblown Simon Pearce pitcher, which he says makes even cheap wine taste good.
Pretty Plates Good food deserves more than everyday dishes every day, which is why he serves dinner on hand-painted, ceramic place settings from Deruta, Italy, several times a month.
Fava Bean Crostini
(Makes 20 to 24 crostini per baguette)
Blair loves serving this purée in the spring for its brilliant color. He says, "It's the epitome of spring green."
- 1 pound fresh fava beans, shucked*
- ¼-½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- freshly toasted baguette slices
- ¼ pound fresh Marzolino cheese (young Manchego, which is also made from sheep's milk, may be substituted)
Blanch the peeled favas in salted, boiling water until tender, two to three minutes. Shock in ice water. Peel off outer skin of each bean. Purée peeled beans in food processor with olive oil and chopped mint until the mixture reaches the consistency of mashed potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread purée over freshly toasted baguette slices. Top each with one thin shaving of Marzolino cheese. Sprinkle with additional julienned mint and a little drizzle of olive oil.
*If you don't feel like shucking a pound of fava beans twice (the second peeling of the favas is key), you can use ½ pound of fresh spring peas. You only have to shuck them once.