Friday, July 18, 2014

Fava Bean & Beet Salad

I dunno where YOU are, but up here in the Pacific North West, the sun has been shining more than usual - and around here that is a good thing.  The result is beautiful beets, the arrival of the fava beans and spectacular lettuces.  And then, fresh garlic is here to.  That means salads with garlicky vinaigrette.

This year, I ran across a fascinating hybrid of Chioggia (candy stripe) beets and golden beets.  They ended up looking particularly psychedelic.

The hardest part about this salad is the fava beans - they need to come out of their well-padded, fuzzy pods AND out of their tough, slippery, light green skins.  But go ahead, don't be afraid.  Jump in and try this one.  It is worth the effort.  Other than the lettuce, everything is really hearty, so you can make  lots of beets, onions and beans one cool night, then make this salad over and over on hot steamy days.

Fava Bean & Pickled Beet Salad
(Serves 1 for an excellent lunch.  Multiply for the crowd you have.  OR, make lots, and have the salad several times.  The pickled beets and blanched favas keep for about a week in the fridge.)

This is what you do with favas and beets to make them easier to handle – which is important when you find out how tasty this combination is.

beets - 2 small, any color
fava beans 4-5 pods
lettuce – 1 small head or 5-6 leaves from a large head
fresh cheese – crumbles (think goat cheese, queso fresco, feta)
sweet onion – ¼ of a large one, or 1 small
herbs – a handful of what’s handy (dill & parsley are excellent)

pickling liquid –
water – 1 C
vinegar – ½ C (rice, cider or wine)
peppercorns – 6
cinnamon stick – 1 (or 6 allspice berries)
cloves – 2 whole
salt – 2 tsp
sugar – 2 Tbs

dressing –
3 Tbs used pickling liquid
pepper (& salt) -  to taste
mustard – 2 tsp
garlic – 2 cloves (fresh garlic if you see it!)
tasty oil - ¼ C (nice olive oil is excellent here)

optional – garlic bread or nifty crackers


cutting board
vegetable peeler
slotted spoon
2 – 3 medium and small bowls
sauce pan with lid
whisk or fork
small snap-top container with tight lid for mixing dressing (or another bowl & whisk)
salad spinner (optional)
salad bowl or serving plate
measuring cups and spoons


Grab the fava pods.  Break off the stem end, use it to pull the sting off the top seam of the pod.  Pull out the beans (but leave them in their skins – the trick for getting them off is a little further down).
Chop the greens off the beets if they have them.  If they are small, tender and tasty looking, put them with your lettuces, or to the side for cooking later (just like chard).
Peel the beets with your vegetable peeler.  Slice them into wedges the thickness of your pinky, or thinner.
Rinse and dry your lettuce, and any optional herbs (use your salad spinner here if you have one).
Slice the onion thinly.
Measure out all the dressing ingredients into the small snap-top container EXCEPT for the pickling liquid.
Measure out the pickling liquid ingredients into the saucepan.

Put the pickling liquid ingredients in the saucepan, on the stove.  Bring to a boil.
Put the fava beans in the boiling liquid.  Fish one out with the slotted spoon after 3 minutes – run under cool water so you can handle it.  See if the bean slips out of the  pale green skin easily.  If not – try each minute until they do.  When the skin slips off easily, scoop out the rest of the beans and let them cool in one of the small bowls.

Put the sliced beets and half the onions into the pickling liquid.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Let them simmer until they are fork tender – this will take about 10 minutes.

While the beets are cooking, peel the fava beans (run under cool water if you need to, so you can handle them).  Also chop or crumble a tablespoon or two of cheese.

Make the optional garlic bread or toast.

When the beets are cooked through, take the saucepan off the heat.

Add 3 Tbs of the pickling liquid to the dressing and shake it well to combine all the ingredients.

Combine the chopped herbs, beets, fava beans and onions (both pickled and raw) and cheese.  Toss with enough dressing to make the salad tasty.  Enjoy with our without the garlic bread.

Variation:  If you are using regular onion, pickle it all!
Add, subtract and substitute ingredients as you need to.

Sweet lettuces like little gem, romaine, Boston and bibb are especially good.  Roasted nuts and seeds go well in here as well.

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