Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fresh fava beans

Why yes, this picture is taken in the light of the...uh...it'll come to me...you know, that big round yellow shiny thing that now and then, lately very rarely, shows itself in the sky--oh, the sunSun sun sun sun sun! Dear Sun, lovely Sun, welcome Sun, warm Sun, late Sun!  Please stay!  Please warm this place and melt the two feet or more of snow that still blanket most of my garden, though in the area where it is not, crocuses are blooming, the first pretty thing I have seen outside for a whole six months!  I am so starved for natural beauty!  Like the rest of Edmonton, Canada, so very starved! 

It was a minor joyous moment, therefore, when I found these fresh fava beans in H&W Produce today.  You never know what you'll find there.  These are the first fresh fava beans I have ever seen, anywhere.  As you might imagine, I scooped up a pound (what you see above is one pound) and skipped home with them in high delight (and in sunlight--though it was cold, windy sunlight, whatever, it didn't matter, it was sunlight.  Edmonton is supposed to be sunny most of the time, the wide open prairie sky and all that).  Well. 

I already knew what to do with them, because I've been reading about fresh fava beans in Madhur Jaffrey's books for twenty years.  I've tried favas both canned and dried in the past.  The dried ones are okay, but you can tell that they'd be a very different thing fresh.  The canned ones--just don't go there, don't buy them, they're always tinny and grey and gross, at least in my experience.  Fresh ones are not gross, and they're certainly not grey:


Click for a closeup.  The plump, gorgeous, velvety green beans are nestled in little beds of down inside their pods.  Despite best efforts, these pictures aren't doing the real colours justice.  Pale early green on the edges, melting into deeper pools of colour nearer the middle, these beans are transcendently, perfectly beautiful. 

One pound yields approximately four ounces of shelled beans:


But you can't use them yet.  Like the dried variety, the outer shell of the fresh favas is very leathery and tough.  I'm fairly tolerant of tough skins, but tried one and had to admit that it was pretty much inedible.  Madhur Jaffrey wonders in World of the East Vegetarian Cooking why fresh fava beans aren't more popular in North America.  I'd venture to guess this is why: in order to make them edible, you have to boil them for five minutes or so, then run them under cold water to cool them:

See how the skins are kind of loosening from the inner bean?
Then, one at a time, break one end of the leathery skin and slip the inner bean out:


Here's what you end up with:


Oh, that green!  Surprisingly, because they look heavy, the skins don't seem to weigh much, so the inner beans from one pound of fresh favas still come to just under four ounces.

Also at H&W, they had some lovely tomatillos!
The beans aren't quite cooked and still have a slightly raw, bitter taste.  I could have left them boiling in another five minutes, then removed the skins, tossed them with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and thyme to have them plain, which is a common way to serve them in the Mediterranean, apparently.  But what I did was put them into the Chili verde con papas from Appetite for Reduction.  I've been featuring this cookbook a lot on my blog lately, but this is more the luck of the draw than anything, as I've been cooking all sorts of things.  At any rate, this was pretty good, and satisfyingly complex to prepare.  It contains a lot of kale.  It's also so lo-cal you can eat practically a ton of it and come out of the experience feeling satisfied and bursting with health.  Honest to pete, I've never felt so healthy as now that I'm padding pretty much everything I eat with extra veggies, so this recipe is right up my alley these days:


It's topped with mung bean sprouts I made myself so I could at least watch something growing.  Yum!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Baked falafel

Cadry, who left a comment on my last post that her favorite recipe from Appetite for Reduction was the baked falafel, had me at "falafel."  I had to try it, and here it is.  And I admit, while it isn't exactly (or at all) deep fried, it is quite delicious, wonderfully spicy and with a nice soft texture that I think, as Isa suggests in the recipe, will only improve after spending the night in the refrigerator and being served for lunch tomorrow at room temperature.

It's served here with a chopped salad and some Aztec mix from Bulk Barn (a mixture of red and brown rice, chana dal, amaranth, and probably a few other things), as well as a tahini-lemon sauce because--even though the recipe doesn't say so--you can't have falafel without tahini-lemon sauce.

This recipe is insanely easy to make.  You start with canned chickpeas, and process them with onions, garlic and parsley or cilantro (cilantro, yes!) and the secret genius ingredient, hot sauce (I used sriracha).  Then add various spices (this, by the way, is a half recipe that will net two servings of 4.5 falafels each):


Mix it all together, and form into patties--I copied Cadry's idea and put them on parchment paper:


And bake 'em:


They look a little dry, but actually they're not.  They were, in fact, quite delicious, and so quick that I can see myself making them very often in the future.

The tahini sauce?  Well, here's a recipe, which I feel a little silly for giving as it's so simple and can be found anywhere, but it's worth being reproduced everywhere:

Tahini-lemon sauce
makes about 1/3 cup

2 1/2 tbsp tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon plus more to taste
1 small clove garlic, put through a press
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup warm water

Put everything into a small bowl, and whisk until it becomes white and creamy.  Add more water, lemon juice, and/or salt until you've achieved the texture you want.  This sauce is great as a salad dressing, a dip for raw vegetables or drizzled over cooked vegetables, beans, grains, or heck, just spooned up out of the little bowl.  Simple and utterly delicious, it's the Mediterranean sauce.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Caulipots & chickpea piccata (Appetite for Reduction)

I had a lovely day today. The sun came out in the afternoon and I was able (well wrapped in a black heat-attracting coat) to sit in it, surrounded by my yard o' snow & ice, and because it is, after all, even in this unseasonably frozen wasteland, technically April, I even got a bit of a tan.


But before that I was wandering about the neighborhood and ended up buying Appetite for Reduction today, because this morning the clever idea struck me that calorie counting would be easier if the calories were listed right with the recipe. Why didn't this occur to me two months ago? Well I guess, as Isa herself might say, I'm just imprudent like that.

Anyway, I have it now, and above you see some caulipots (a mixture of mashed potatoes and mashed cauliflower) and the chickpea piccata, as well as some stir fried baby bok choy. I've wanted to try mashed cauliflower for some time and it's actually really good, not indistinguishable from straight-up mashed potatoes, but if you like cauliflower (I love it) a very nice alternative. The dish is basically equal amounts of cauliflower and potatoes, boiled together and coarsely mashed. The boiling liquid can be economically used as stock in the piccata, so not a vitamin was sacrificed in the making of this meal.

On edit: I see the PPK has posted the recipe for the chickpea piccata here if you don't have Appetite for Reduction and want to try it.

The whole plate has about 375 calories in total, and the servings shown here are a little less than given in the book--I was surprised with both recipes how generous the servings were for the calories in them. So, yay, I got to shop for books, sit in the sun, spend time in the kitchen messing over more than one pot, and enjoy a great meal as well.

Appetite for Reduction looks fun. It is very much a lunch and supper book and doesn't cover breakfasts and doesn't include any desserts (the latter being not a defect, but a bonus, in my opinion). But there's a big section on main dish salads and lots of bean, tofu, soup, stew and chili recipes. I was surprised and pleased to see that Isa has many variations on the theme of salad dressings and sauces using nuts rather than oil, something I've been doing in some of the Asian salads I've been experimenting with, and I look forward to trying her takes. And of course, the famous OMG oven-baked onion rings, eventually…

Friday, April 1, 2011

Kobi nu kachumber

One thing I have been experimenting with lately is Asian salads.  I have a number of cookbooks which feature many such salads, including Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian and Hema Parekh's The Asian Vegan Kitchen.  It's from the latter that this dish originates.  Unfortunately, I have been unable to find this recipe or any of its near cousins online, but I'll post this anyway as a plug for Ms. Parekh's book, which I absolutely love, except for the unfortunately tiny font used for the ingredient lists.  But that's a quibble.  If you can get a copy of this book, you can make this dish exactly as prescribed.  If you're an experimenter, you can wing it and no doubt you'll succeed very well!

A kachumber is a chopped vegetable salad, and if you search for recipes, you'll find many delicious-sounding ones online.  In many Indian salads, what we would call dressing is called "tempering" because (I'm guessing) it's cooked and poured warm onto the salad as you'd add a tarka to a dal.

This lovely salad features red and white cabbage and hot green chili as the vegetable base.  Shred this fine--I use the shredding blade of a food processor, put in a chunk of cabbage and don't press down, just let the weight of the lid and gravity create the finest possible shreds.  As you probably know, raw shredded cabbage will keep for several days in a container, so I would make the whole recipe, but keep the vegetables and the tempering separate until just before I was ready to eat.  This way, it's easy and painless to have salad for lunch at work, for instance. 


Cabbage!  Such a prosaic name for such a gorgeous and tasty vegetable.  To make the tempering, place a little vegetable oil in a very very small pan.  I have a tiny cast iron frying pan, about 3 inches in diameter, that I bought just to make tarkas in, and this is perfect.  When the oil is hot, add mustard seeds:



As soon as the seeds start to sputter, you add some tumeric, asafetida, cayenne, and curry leaves and fry for just a few seconds more:


Drizzle this mixture over the salad, then add crushed peanuts, coriander, and a little lemon juice.  Salad heaven!  As with so many dishes in which it is featured, in my opinion the curry leaves just make this dish.  However, it's certainly very tasty without, and most of the recipes online don't include it as an ingredient.