Fava Bean Salads

Friends who like fava beans joined us for dinner this week and I took the opportunity to explore new ways to serve these rich, flavorful beans.  My fava crop is a little late this year because I planted late so the mid-August timing for a fava-themed dinner was good.

My quest for new recipes began, as it sometimes does, with a search of the New York Times Cooking site.  Entering “fava bean recipes” yielded lots of inspiring titles and photos of fava bean purees, salads, pasta sauces, soups, stews and risottos, and, most useful to me, names of the recipe authors so I could go to cooks whose recipes I’ve liked in the past.  David Tanis, Melissa Clark and Martha Rose Shulman are three favorites.

Imagining salads for this summer meal, I was drawn to David Tanis’s recipe for Burrata With Fava Beans, Fennel and Celery as well as to a favorite Tanis recipe I’ve made before: Fresh Multi-Bean Salad with Charred Red Onion.  Offering more inspiration, Martha Rose Shulman’s Green Bean and Fava Bean Salad With Walnuts also combines favas with green beans, and her Rainbow Quinoa Salad With Fava Beans and Herbs suggests a tasty pairing of favas and quinoa.

As often happens when ingredients overlap among recipes, I started combining recipes. Inspired by Shulman’s pairing of favas and quinoa, I decided to serve Tanis’s Fresh Multi-Bean Salad with Charred Red Onion on a bed of red quinoa. Another change I made to the Tanis recipe was to sauté the fava beans in olive oil, garlic and chopped rosemary until they were soft rather than adding them raw.  I like the sharp, earthy flavor of raw fava beans but sautéing brings out a deeper richness that worked well with the sweet bean flavors of the cooked pole beans.

Fava, beans, charred onions

As also often happens, I substituted some ingredients.  I wanted to make Tanis’s Burrata With Fava Beans, Fennel and Celery, but I don’t have any celery in my kitchen garden. Remembering a salad of Golden Beets with Fava Beans and Mint I’d made from from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, I substituted yellow beets from my kitchen garden for the celery, peeling the beets, cutting them into ½ inch cubes and steaming them.  I left the favas raw for this salad.  The combination of the slightly bitter raw favas with the deeply sweet yellow beets and finely sliced sweet fennel was perfect dressed with a lemon vinaigrette and tossed with the creamy burrata.

Fava, beet, fennel salad

Finally, beginning the meal with favas, I made a simple fava bean purée for an appetizer, serving it with raw sweet peppers for dipping. I followed Alice Water’s recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables.

Fava puree and peppers

3 lbs. fava beans

1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine

1/4 bay leaf                       

1 small sprig rosemary           

1 sprig thyme

1/2 lemon

    1. Shell the favas discarding pods. Boil a large pot of water and blanch the favas for 1 minute. Drain and plunge in ice water. When cool pop the favas out of their skins.
    2. Warm 2/2 cup olive oil in a sautee pan. Add beans and salt. Add garlic, the herbs sprigs and a splash of water. Cook favas at a slow simmer stirring occasionally 30 minutes till they are completely soft. Add a splash of water if the beans begin to dry out.
    3. When they are done discard the herbs and mash the beans to a paste with a potato masher or puree in a food processor. Taste for seasoning and add lemon juice. If paste is at all dry add additional olive oil. Oil is an important part of the flavor so don’t be stingy. Serve at room temperature with slices of grilled baguette.


While these fava salads would make fine meals on their own, for this shared meal they complemented our friend Anne’s very delicious poblano chili relleno, stuffed with potato and cheese and topped with a spicy tomato sauce, all the vegetables in it from her garden.  High summer gardens are great inspirations for dinners with friends and we’re looking forward to more of these dinners as late summer slides into autumn.

 

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The First Eggplant of Summer

I was checking the eggplant in the plastic greenhouse the other day, hoping I’d see a few small, dark purple vegetables forming among the lavender blossoms of the Galine and Diamond plants.  Instead, to my great surprise, I found, nestled in the mulch beneath the robust green plants, some really big eggplant.  Yikes!  I know it’s been warm, but I really hadn’t expected eggplant this soon. Dinner suddenly included eggplant.

Eggplant growing

Eggplant counter

Harvesting five big purple globes and bringing them to the kitchen, I turned the oven on to 475 and cut the largest two lengthwise into wedges.  I arranged the wedges on a sheet pan, brushed them generously on all sides with olive oil, sprinkled them with salt and pepper and, when the oven reached 475, I put the pan in the oven.

Eggplant wedges raw

Eggplant roastedTwenty minutes later, the wedges had softened into creamy, sweet and slightly smoky eggplant flesh.

Half of them went onto our dinner plates, a perfect side dish for basil pesto on linguine, sugar snap peas and Orange Paruche cherry tomatoes.  We ate dinner outside, celebrating the start of high summer meals.

Eggplant dinner

I put the remaining roasted eggplant into the Cuisinart to make a spread I discovered a few years ago.  This Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread is one of the best reasons to grow eggplant.

Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/charred-eggplant-and-tahini-spread

  • 1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise into quarters
  • ¼ cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic finely grated
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin

     Toasted sesame seeds

 Preheat oven to 475°. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and toss with ¼ cup oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly charred and very tender, 20–25 minutes; let cool slightly. Chop eggplant (skin and all) until almost a paste.

Mix eggplant in a medium bowl with garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, tahini, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil and top with sesame seeds.  Makes 1 and ½ cups.

Eggplant spread

There are a lot of other reasons to grow eggplant. From the remaining eggplant from this first harvest I made grilled eggplant, dried tomato and goat cheese pasta sauce from Jack Bishop’s Pasta & Verdura, 140 Vegetable Sauces for Spaghetti, Fusilli, Rigatoni, and All Other Noodles (1996).

Bishop 1

Bishop 2

Bishop 3

Eggplant pasta

Looking ahead to more eggplant harvests, there’s eggplant pizza, our favorite summer pizza, and for a dinner party or even just the two of us, Ottolenghi’s eggplant stuffed with lamb and pine nuts from his cookbook Jerusalem (2012).  Finally, as the tomatoes and peppers ripen, there is caponata, the perfect summer stew.  And with any excess eggplants, I’ll keep making the Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread, great on sandwiches for lunch, on crackers or appetizers or simply by the spoonful.

Some of my Favorite Cookbooks

Earlier this month, a Lopez Island Kitchen Gardens blog reader wrote: “You should do a post on your favorite cook books…I’m always looking for new and different ways to cook vegetables.”  At her suggestion, I started to make a list of the cookbooks I go to regularly for recipes and inspiration.  I didn’t even need to look at my cookbook shelves to make this list because these writers are so much a part of my kitchen, some of them, as the publication dates I added later reveal, for over two decades.

Cookbooks favs

Alice Waters: Chez Panisse Vegetables(1996)

Deborah Madison:The Greens Cookbook(1987) Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone(1997), Vegetable Literacy(2013)

Yotam Ottolenghi: Plenty More(2014)

Nigel Slater: Tender(2009)

Georgeanne Brennan:Potager(1992)

Viana La Place: Verdura(1991)

Nancy Harmon Jenkins: Flavors of Tuscany(1998)

Marcella Hazan: Marcella’s Italian Kitchen(1986)

Jack Bishop: Pasta e Verdura(1996)

There are a lot of reasons that these books made my short list. They are all either vegetable-focused, like Madison’s, Waters’s, Ottolenghi’s, Slater’s, LaPlace’s and Bishop’s, or they have excellent sections on vegetables as do Hazan’s and Jenkins’ Italian cookbooks.  I can count on opening the table of contents of any book on this list and finding some inspiring ideas for cooking whatever vegetable I’ve brought in from the kitchen garden.

They are all strong on technique, introducing each recipe with an informative paragraph or two and then providing clear, step-by-step instructions.  Alice Waters, in Chez Panisse Vegetables, also offers what she calls snapshot recipes: “narrative descriptions that leave much to the imagination and intuition of the cook.” Characterizing her book as an “album of possibilities for vegetables,” she says that these snapshots are scattered among more formal portrait recipes that list specific quantities of ingredients and step-by-step instructions. (p. xx)  Actually, all of the recipes I love in the books on my list leave room for imagination and intuition, substitution and variation, making the cooking experience even more creative.

These books also vary in their organization.  The most common is by courses, making it easy to focus in on recipes for vegetable soups, side dishes or main courses. Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables, Nigel Slater’s Tender and Bishop’s Pasta e Verdura are organized alphabetically by vegetable, clustering all of the recipes for one vegetable together for easy study. Georgeanne Brennan’s Potager is organized by season, an inspiring pattern for a year-round kitchen gardener. Yotam Ottolenghi organized Plenty More by cooking technique—tossed, steamed blanched; simmered and braised; grilled, roasted and fried; and mashed—a pattern that I’ve grown to love because of the way it helps me think about each cooking technique.

Cookbooks 1

Cookbooks 2

Overall, the books on this short list and the recipes I turn to in them as well as recipes in other cookbooks on my shelves reveal a lot about the flavors and techniques of my cooking. Olive oil or butter, garlic, salt, pepper and maybe red pepper flakes are about as complicated as I get with seasonings.  Roasting or sautéing are my default techniques.  My goal is to let the flavor of the particular fresh-from-the-garden vegetable stand out. This approach means I’m missing out on the more complex flavors of Asian and Indian cuisines, a lack I sometimes think about addressing.  From Ottolenghi, though, I’m getting a helpful nudge in the direction of the Middle East. Thanks to his creative recipes, cumin and coriander, tahini and yogurt based sauces are a bigger part of my vegetable cooking now.  Who knows, maybe one of these years my palate will advance beyond West Coast and the Mediterranean and my cooking will get there too.  Maybe I need to get some more cookbooks or better yet, travel farther east!

Chard Flower Buds

Each spring I look forward to harvesting, cooking and eating the flower buds that form on overwintered kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and red mustard.

Kale top Red Russian

Before their buds burst into yellow, bee-attracting flowers, these members of the Brassica family provide us with tasty side dishes and pasta sauces. Last week, as we were sharing a meal of sautéed red mustard leaves and their spicy flower buds with weekend guests, my friend Chris asked me if I’d ever eaten chard flower buds. No, I said, and wondered why I’d never considered the flower buds of this other overwintered green.

In the kitchen garden a few days later, I looked more closely at the flower heads that were forming on the bolting, overwintered chard plants.

chard tops garden group

Unlike the tight, broccoli and broccoli raab-like buds on kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and red mustard, these chard buds looked shaggy, loose and seedy, more like amaranth than the Brassica family buds I was used to harvesting.

chard tops garden closeup

This different appearance makes sense because chard and amaranth are members of the Goosefoot Family (Chenopodiaceae). But were the Goosefoot flower buds as edible and delicious as the Brassica buds?

Curious to know if other people harvested and cooked chard flower buds, I searched the Internet and found a July 29, 2009 blog entry titled “Eating Whole Food: When Chard Bolts,” by Deborah Madison, the chef and vegetable cookbook author whose inspiring work has guided my cooking for years. She describes surveying her bolting chard and deciding to cook and eat it instead of composting it: “True, it didn’t look much like the chard you buy at the store—no big fleshy leaves, here—but why assume what filled my arms wouldn’t be tender and tasty?”

Her account was all the encouragement I needed.

chard tops basket

I harvested a basket of chard flower buds and took them to the kitchen where I rinsed them, wilted them in a covered skillet, keeping an eye on them to see how long they took to soften. After five minutes, the thin stems and leaves and the shaggy blossoms were tender and delicious, tasting sweet and earthy like new chard. I added some chopped garlic and olive oil and sautéed them for a few minutes more before serving them.

With lots more seed heads forming on my bolting chard plants, I’ve been using them in other favorite chard recipes. One night I made Scafata, a mixture of fava beans, onion, tomato and chard from Viana La Place’s still-inspiring 1991 cookbook Verdura.

Scafata recipe

I used fava beans I’d frozen last summer, tomatoes I’d roasted and frozen and the last red onion, sautéing these together before adding the chard stems and flower heads. The flower heads softened and blended into the favas, tomatoes and onions, creating a sauté of complementary flavors and textures.

chard tops scafata.jpg

I served this flavorful sauce over pasta garnishing it with lots of black pepper and coarsely grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Last night I combined more chard flower buds with another set of flavors I often use with big chard leaves. Sautéing the chard buds in olive oil, garlic and shallots, I next added yellow raisins and red pepper flakes, and then served this sauté as a side dish garnished with toasted hazelnuts.

chard tops rack

chard tops raisins hazelnuts

I also look forward to making the recipes Deborah Madison describes in her blog post: wilted chard “leaves, stems and flower clusters” tossed with “cilantro, which I love with chard, lemon, olive oil, sea salt, pepper and little extra lemon juice for acid.” She adds that any leftovers can be a salad the next day or go into a pita sandwich or a fritatta or be mixed with beans. So many possibilities.

There will be more chard meals in the next week or two before these flower buds bloom and the plants finally go to the compost. My thanks to Chris for making me curious and to Deborah Madison for inspiring me! Now there’s another flower bud to look forward to each spring.

Early Spring Salads

The early spring kitchen garden continues to offer salad greens from the sturdy plants that provided greens throughout the winter. Arugula, red mustard and kale all came through the cold snaps of December, January and February and now with the longer light of March and April are sending out new growth.

Arugula is starting to bud and blossom but the new leaves that are growing too are tender and spicy.

Spring arugula 4.18

Red mustard is sending out succulent-stemmed, horseradish-spicy leaves.

Spring mustard 4.18

And kale, the year-round champion, is bursting with sweet, tender leaves.

Spring kale 4.18

We eat kale salads for lunch nearly every day and lately we’ve been adding red mustard leaves to the bowl, their hot crispness a perfect balance to the tender sweet kale. Olive oil, a little salt, fresh lemon juice and grated Pecorino cheese meld the flavors of the two together into a perfect salad.

Spring mustard, kale 4.18

Spring kale mustard salad

Arugula makes a great salad with the same dressing, but for the past few months, I’ve been using Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for arugula with roasted red onions and walnut salsa from his 2014 cookbook Plenty More.

Red onion Walnut salsa recipe

It’s so good! The thick slices of red onions roast, soften and caramelize. Redwing is my favorite storage onion, a variety I’ve grown for years. Served warm over a bed of arugula these roasted onions are delicious and beautiful and would be a fine just with the arugula, but what really makes this salad is the walnut salsa. Modifying Ottolenghi’s recipe slightly, I marinate minced garlic in red wine vinegar with a little salt for an hour or so then add coarsely chopped walnuts and finely diced poblano peppers I’d roasted and frozen last summer. Thawed they are perfect for this salsa.   Flavors of sharp vinegar, pungent garlic, crunchy walnuts and spicy poblanos make a salsa that I’m happy simply to eat with a spoon. Tossed into the salad it’s great too. Another modification I make is to use much more arugula than the recipe suggests, making this a dinner salad rather than an appetizer.

Red onion walnut salsa salad

These early spring salads are exactly what we need as we wait for warmer weather and the first lettuce of early summer.

Parsnip Chips

The days are getting longer and winter roots in the kitchen garden are responding to the increased light by sending out new growth. Though they are covered with hay mulch to simulate darkness, even the remaining parsnips are starting to show a few green leaves. There are lots of ways to cook these sweet winter parsnips before too much new growth reduces their sweetness. One technique I’ve just begun experimenting with is turning parsnips roots into parsnip chips. They are easy to make, full of sweet parsnip flavor and definitely make me happy that there are still a few parsnips left in the kitchen garden.

A Google search for parsnip chip recipes yields some helpful techniques. All suggest using a mandoline or a food processor to create very thin slices. Recipes that recommend baking instead of deep-frying suggest lightly oiling the slices and arranging them in a single layer on a sheet pan. For cooking temperature, there is a lot of variation, from 300 to 425 degrees with cooking times varying by temperature.

In my experiments, I used a mandoline to slice the unpeeled parsnips into 1/8-inch (35mm) thick rounds. Mine is a Swissmar Borner V-1001 V-Slicer Plus Mandoline.

Parsnip chips mandolinThen I brushed a light skim of olive on a sheet pan, arranged the parsnip rounds on this oiled surface and brushed a little more olive oil over the surface of the rounds.

Parsnip chips rawFinally, because 300 degrees seemed too low, I put the pan in a 425-degree oven and set the timer for ten minutes. After ten minutes, many of the rounds were starting to curl and brown at the edges though the centers remained soft.

Parsnip chips curledI removed the pan from the oven, turned the rounds with a thin spatula and returned the pan to the oven for another ten minutes. Keeping an eye on them, I found that before the second ten minutes was up, some of the chips looked brown enough to remove. Leaving them another ten minutes resulted in some chips that had turned black and bitter. Cooking at this high temperature made tasty chips but did require vigilance.

Parship chips plates

The next time, I used a 300-325 degree oven. While the cooking time was much longer, 45 minutes instead of 20, none of the chips burned, I didn’t need to be quite so vigilant, and all chips became just as crisp as those cooked at a higher temperature. For future batches of parsnips chips, I’ll probably use the lower temperature unless I’m really in a hurry.

Parsnip chips have turned out to be a hit as an appetizer. Fresh from the oven, crisp but still a little warm, sprinkled lightly with salt, they are all gone by the time the main course is ready. They may keep well in a tightly closed container, but I haven’t found out yet.

Meals from a Bitter Cold Alert

Vancouver Island garden writer Linda Gilkeson regularly emails “Linda’s List” to her many subscribers in the Maritime Northwest. Her most recent subject line, Bitter Cold Alert, definitely caught my attention and sent me to the kitchen garden to follow her advice: “Given how cold it could be, I suggest you harvest as much of the above ground crops (leeks, cabbage, kale, Br. sprouts, chard, etc.) as you can stuff in your refrigerator and cover everything you can’t harvest.”

Heading out into the cold and blustery but sunny late morning, I started with the leeks and quickly filled a wheelbarrow with the last 12-foot row of these special winter alliums, about six dozen leeks. Next I went to the Brussels sprouts and cut off at the base the fullest remaining stalks, six little trees of sprouts. Leaving these two crops to clean later, I turned to the chard, collards and kale, filling bags with the biggest leaves of each and packing them into the refrigerator. Then it was time to cover what remained. I piled extra mulch on the carrot and parsnip beds. I also piled extra mulch around the tall kale plants before moving hoop houses over them and over the chard, securing a small cloche over the mache and closing the cold frame over the mustard and arugula. Finally, I trimmed the leeks and popped the Brussels sprouts from their stalks, filled gallon bags with both, and found more room in the fridge.

Garden covered 2:18

Happily, I was able to start using this emergency harvest right away. At a dinner party that night, I shared a platter of sautéed leeks and Brussels sprouts and at another dinner a few days later, I shared a platter of sautéed leeks, chard and Brussels sprouts. For the first, I sliced the leeks lengthwise and then crosswise into inch-long pieces, then sautéed them in a little butter. I sliced the Brussels sprouts into eighth-inch rounds and sautéed them quickly in butter as well. Finally, I added a little heavy cream to the final sautéing of both the leeks and the Brussels sprouts, not really necessary but very tasty.   The warm green and yellow tones of both vegetables looked lovely against a dark brown stoneware platter.

For the second dinner’s platter of leeks, chard and Brussels sprouts, I sautéed the leeks and Brussels sprouts in butter as before though I left out the cream. Then I braised the dark green chard in a bit of water until it was tender. On a shallow yellow rectangular platter, I arranged the vegetables in sections, leeks then chard then Brussels sprouts forming a winter vegetable harvest flag. I missed the opportunity to get photos of each of these dishes but they were as beautiful as they were delicious.

Still working my way through bags of leeks and kale, a few nights later I made a large dish of Boerenkool to serve at a birthday party we were hosting. This classic Dutch dish combines mashed potatoes, sautéed leeks and wilted kale into a wonderfully satisfying winter mash. With roasted carrots and a pork leg roast, it made a festive dinner.

Boerenkool parts & carrots

Boerenkool

The cold has abated, but there are still bags of leeks in the fridge along with bags of collards, Brussels sprouts, arugula, radicchio and parsley.  And the roots and greens covered and left in the garden survived the cold.  We’ll use them all for parties ahead, warm times with friends as we move from winter to spring.