Last week I posted about turning the corner from spring into summer, but a couple days later it felt like we were smack dab right in midsummer with those high 90’s. Whew! That’s why I leave growing food to the professionals, farmers that is! The hot spell was a reminder to enjoy the last of the cool season crops, like much loved peas and lesser known broccoli rabe (or raab, or rapini). Not a true broccoli, but in the same family called Brassicas, or mustards, or cole crops; you may also know them as cruciferous vegetables. They include broccoli, kale, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, mustard greens, many of the Asian greens like bok choi and napa, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, even roots like radishes, turnips and rutabagas! The list goes on and on, and not only do they add great variety to our diet, they are super good for us. So eat your veggies! (Learn more about their healthy goodness and even potential cancer-fighting properties here.)
Now back to cooking ideas for broccoli rabe. I think there are two schools of thought; one is cook it long and low to flavorful (garlicky), almost melt in your mouth richness (butter and/or olive oil). The other is to preserve more of the texture, color and vitamin content by cooking hot and fast, stir fry style in a more heat tolerant oil (I like to use the sunflower oil you’ll find in the Isabelle farm store. If you want to learn more about the why’s and how’s of choosing cooking oils, you’ll find useful, somewhat nerdy info and a handy chart here.) I’ve used both of these approaches depending on the nature of the rabe’s long stem. Check the bottom of the stem, similar to how you would for an asparagus stalk. If it resists bending or cutting with your knife, it’s tougher than the rest of the stalk and you can remove that lower part and/or use the cook-it-forever approach. This recipe also has a cook-it-less option; I consider the blanching first in boiling water step optional (unless your rabe is tough and/or very bitter to you).
Whew! Now leaving the broccoli rabe lecture for the lighter side of favas, peas and mint! I harvested shelling peas and favas from my garden a few days ago, and not having many of the fava beans yet, I combined them together. This dish was a big hit, especially with the visiting grandson (toddler) who enjoyed it over some reheated leftover rice. But you can make it a grownup dish with just the favas and skip the rice. I also had some fresh tarragon and mint which added some hints of licorice and brightness to this dish.
You’ll notice that some of the fava beans were peeled, but some were left with the skins on. Preparing a lot of favas can be tedious, so I sometimes skip peeling if the they are small and tender, especially the early season ones. Fava prep usually is
- Remove beans from the pod
- Blanch beans briefly in boiling water to loosen skins
- Peel skin off each bean (tedious part)
- Use in chosen recipe
Alternatively with young smaller favas, you can grill them and eat the whole thing, pod and all. Really! Just lightly dress with oil, salt and pepper, and grill over medium heat until somewhat charred and limp. Go here for a fancier version of grilled favas with herbs, anchovy and lemon!
Here’s what I did for the pictured pea and fava dish. Feel free to use all fava beans!
- Shell peas and/or favas
- Blanch fava beans in boiling water and peel (optional if beans are small)
- Bring a small amount of salted water to a simmer and add peas and/or favas beans
- Cook just until tender
- Drain off some of the water if it seems like more than you want for a sauce
- Add a big dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream
- Fold in finely chopped fresh mint or other herbs of your choice
- Salt and pepper to taste
Enjoy your last tastes of spring!