Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fava Shoots: From Garden to Plate

Fava shoots have become popular, and I think it's a great way to get the most out of a powerhouse cool-season vegetable. Fava plants grow big and vigorously, so eating the young leaves in a saute or lightly steamed is taking good advantage of this hardy legume. I noticed that my local farmer's market had bundles of them for sale last year in the spring.

Fava Shoots Fit for High Cuisine
At the Chez TJ restaurant garden the fava beans my son and I planted last fall are now about a 3 feet high and looking lush. The funny thing is that Executive Chef Jarad Gallagher and his staff are raiding the young leaves from the tender plants for the restaurant.

Head gardener Louise Christy remarked that they might prevent flowers from forming and therefore won't get beans come springtime. But we are always happy when the kitchen garden gets used by the staff, whether it's for the restaurant or for their own meals, and we welcome creative uses of the edibles!

Pretty fava flowers attract bees in my winter garden

Simple Saute with Fava Leaves 
Pick shoots of fresh young leaves (usually found towards the top) to saute with olive oil as you would for spinach, or ask for them at your farmer's market. They taste a bit like like fresh green peas.

The flowers are also tasty in salads, but I hate picking them because that means less beans- and when it comes to favas I'm greedy!

This spring try a simple salad of  fava beans with new potatoes  

Planning for Spring Fava Harvest
In my home garden I have my usual fava plantings in both front and back yards and they are full of flowers. Fava beans love our mild winters on the SF Peninsula and I always make sure we have plenty of tender tasty beans in spring, but I think I'll go ahead enjoy a few shoots while I wait.

For fava recipes, including soup, and tips on growing them click here.
For the fava spring salad recipe, go here.

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jerusalem Artichoke and Roasted Squash Soup

At this time of year we are really enjoying the Jerusalem artichokes (aka sunchokes) that we grew last summer, especially in hearty and elegant soups. The string of cold frosty mornings have sweetened the tubers in the ground and they are crisp and delicious.

Jerusalem Artichoke and Roasted Squash Soup
We eat them raw in salads or pureed with other vegetables in velvety soups. Last week I made a wonderful soup with roasted Musque de Provence, a gorgeous French heirloom winter squash, Jerusalem artichokes, onion and a bit of pipin apple.

Cast iron cookware is perfect for a slow saute for soup
See my recipe for creamy no dairy soup featuring Jerusalem artichokes and just add squash instead of the carrots in the recipe. Try adding a few chunks of apple too. The flavors blended beautifully.

Growing Jerusalem Artichokes: Free Food!
Growing Jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus tuberosus) is easy and they are very prolific. That's why I call them "free food".  I'm constantly amazed at the tasty bounty they provide with very little effort on my part. Read my blog about growing them, (including how to manage their spreading), which includes a recipe for sauteing them with mushrooms.

Plant them in spring (they are frost tender) and begin harvesting in the fall, preferably after frosts have begun.

Jerusalem artichokes (sunflower family) are native to North America

Cooking with Cast Iron
And by the way, I love my cast iron Lodge combination cooker in the photo above. The lid is a saute pan and the 3 quart pot is fantastic for delivering even heat when sauteing vegetables, and cheap too (when you compare to high-end dutch ovens). These things will last forever with the proper care. Cooks respect their quality and simplicity (no they are not paying me to say this- really!).

Try finding Lodge cookware at your local hardware store as they may be cheaper there, than in a cookware shop.  At our house we are big fans of cast iron cooking, and I confess to owning a big, beautiful, blue Staub dutch oven, besides our Lodge pieces.

But I'm still trying to forget what we paid for it- ouch.

My niece, the talented food blogger and printmaker, Janina Larenas got us hooked on cast iron. I know there are more of you out there with a favorite cast iron piece- am I right?

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke