Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Vegetable Quinoa Salad with Fava Beans

Life is a little crazy at the moment. A lot of the time recently, I've had to close my eyes and center myself by taking some deep breaths in the middle of all of the craziness. Exciting changes are on the horizon, but there are many things right now in the moment that are just taking up lots of my time. And sanity. I'm going through a bit of a transition in my life. I'm feeling stretched. And a bit like I'm being molded into something (and someone) new. And it's a good thing, really. Although that doesn't mean that I'm not stressed about it. I realize I'm being pretty vague here. I have a way with writing how I'm feeling all while leaving some ambiguity. Please bear with me.

Besides those deep breaths I've been taking to calm myself, I've also been doing what I love to do the most, and that is creating in my kitchen. It is there where I'm completely at ease, my knife gliding through vegetables, my pots on the stove simmering as delectable aromas fill the air. Working with fresh produce energizes me and relaxes me at the same time. I love it. And what gets me even more excited is trying new things, like these amazing local fava beans.
This was my first time working with fava beans, and they did not disappoint. I love using fresh beans straight from the pod. I find it fun (although time consuming) to shell the beans by hand. To prepare fresh fava beans, first you remove the beans from the pod. Then, you boil the beans for about two to three minutes. Strain the beans and run them under cold water to cool them down. Then, you remove the skins from each bean and you're left with bright green, creamy delicious fava beans!

And this salad? Oh yes, this is a good one. An easy one, too. It's perfect to whip up when you're pressed for time and want a healthy meal.  I made a giant bowl of it for two people and it was gone soon after, but it also stores well to eat for leftovers for lunch throughout the week. The ingredients are really straightforward, too. Many of them will be popping up in vegetable gardens really soon. I added some zatar to give it even more of a flavor kick, but it would still be really tasty without it. Serve it over salad greens or just as is. I would imagine some crumbled goat cheese or feta would make it even more delicious.

Vegetable Quinoa Salad with Fava Beans

For the dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of one large lemon (preferably organic)
one teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

For the Salad:
2 cups cooked and cooled quinoa
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 small tomatoes, diced
1 red onion, very finely diced
1 medium cucumber, diced (leave skin on)
2 scallions, sliced
2-4 cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
1 cup of cooked, shelled fava beans (see instructions above)
one bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped (you could also use fresh dill, cilantro, or basil or a combination of all of them if you like)
8 leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped
2 tablespoons zatar spice blend (optional, but recommended)
Feta cheese or goat cheese (optional)

1. In a small bowl, wisk together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

2. In a very large bowl, combine the salad ingredients. Add the dressing and toss gently just to combine everything. Top with feta or goat cheese, if desired.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Vanilla Maple Rhubarb and Blueberry Compote

I've never used rhubarb for much except desserts paired with strawberries. You know, the classic strawberry rhubarb crisp or pie. But when I stumbled upon some cheap organic blueberries recently, my mind began dreaming of a compote. With tart rhubarb, sweet blueberries, and lots of vanilla bean. And with the crazy abundance of rhubarb available everywhere around here, you bet I got straight to work.
Rhubarb is a plant with very large poisonous leaves and that's why only the stems are sold. The rhubarb leaves are incredibly high in oxalic acid, so high that they are indeed inedible and will cause you harm if you do ingest. Rhubarb stems themselves are quite tart (okay, like crazy sour) and that makes it excellent paired with sweet fruit. Rhubarb is very high in vitamin K and C. The stems can range in color from green to pink to deep red and this color variation does not affect taste at all.
This compote comes together in no time. I had some organic vegan coconut ice cream on hand that you see pictured here and it was amazing. I also topped my bowl of oatmeal the following morning with it plus some extra blueberries and it really made my breakfast special. I'd imagine that the compote would be delicious over some whole grain waffles or pancakes, as well.
Vanilla Maple Rhubarb and Blueberry Compote

4 large stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tbs coconut oil
4-6 tablespoons of pure maple syrup, depending on how sweet you like it
1 vanilla bean, split down the center to expose the vanilla flecks
1 cup of blueberries

1. In a large pot or deep frying pan, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the rhubarb, maple syrup, and vanilla bean and stir to coat the rhubarb in oil and maple. Stir periodically to keep from sticking for about 10-15 minutes, or until the rhubarb breaks down and becomes silky and tender.

2. Add the blueberries and let simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Taste and add more maple syrup if desired. Remove the vanilla bean. Transfer the compote to a bowl and serve over ice cream, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, or whatever your heart desires!

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