Fava Beans 101 (and a delicious sandwich recipe!)

I love fresh fava beans.  This is the time of year when you’ll see them showing up in salads and pastas and soups at your favorite restaurants.  But I’ve noticed that a lot of people avoid playing with them at home, with the common refrain being something along the lines of:  “I’ve heard they’re really difficult to work with.”  I am here to set the record straight.  While they do take a little effort, they are not challenging at all, and the rewards are well worth any time you put in.

First, what do they look like in their natural state?  They are like giant, somewhat gnarled pea pods.  While I prefer to find them loose at farmer’s markets, you should also be able to get them (often bundled) at your local market.  That’s where I got these:



Not the most attractive things, but don’t let that outer covering fool you.  There’s something quite fun and delicious lurking within.  Preparing the favas is a three-step process:  

Step 1.  Remove the outer covering and collect the beans.  This is quite simply done, and you will develop your own favorite technique.  You can rip the side off and squeeze or lift the beans out.  You can pop them in half and, again, squeeze the beans out.  There’s no wrong or right way.  Just get those beans out and collect them.  Here, Queenie demonstrates her pop-in-half-and-squeeze technique.




Once you have completed this step, you will be left with a bowl full of very firm beans that look like this.



IMPORTANT NOTE:  Do not eat them yet!  This is the moment in their preparation that tends to give them their high-maintenance reputation because they still have an outer covering on them that needs to be removed.  How do you get it off?

Step 2:  Blanch the beans (dump them into boiling water for just a couple of minutes.  Seriously, 2 or 3 minutes, tops), and then immediately cool them down, using either an ice bath or running cold water on them.  As you boil them, you should notice them getting a brighter green.



Once they have cooled, you are on to Step 3:  you are going to remove that outer covering, which is nice and loose and cooperative now, by squeezing it and popping out the bright green bean within.



Work through your pile of beans and when you’re done, you’ll have a bowl full of husks (throw them away):



… and a bowl full of vibrant green, ready to eat fava beans!



You can do anything you want with the favas at this point, but should you need some inspiration, here’s my favorite fava bean sandwich recipe:

Combine the prepared favas with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mash with a fork to combine.  You don’t want a perfect puree – some chunks are nice.  Slice a baguette and coat lightly with vegan mayo.  Spread the bottom side of the bread with mashed avocado, then put a nice layer of the fava mixture on top of it, followed by some arugula.



Enjoy!  xo

Thyme for Tofu Scramble

A friend recently gave me some dried thyme from her garden.  When I opened the charming package, it smelled divine, and I wanted to use it in something immediately.  After scanning the ‘fridge and pantry shelves, I decided to make a tofu scramble that would feature the thyme.  It turned out delicious – one of my favorite tofu scrambles ever.  However, since I was completely winging it the first time, I went back and made it again a few days later, jotting down what I was doing this time, to see if I could replicate what I’d done.  Good news:  the second try was just as tasty as the first.

My inspiration:



Having this great ingredient definitely elevated my dish.  While any thyme you have on hand will work, if you can get your hands on some super delicious, freshly dried stuff like this, it will make a big difference.

The first thing I did was sizzle a bit of garlic in olive oil.  You want to brown it gently, being careful not to burn it.



Next, add some chopped broccoli to the hot oil, followed by some mushrooms.  (Note:  these veggies are what I had on hand and what I like in a scramble.  Feel free to substitute whatever you prefer.)



Crumble up some extra firm tofu and add it to your pan.  Now you’re going to season it.  I should warn you that when I’m in “wing it” mode, I’m not measuring exactly.  I’m seasoning to taste, and that’s what you’ll be doing, too, using my suggestions as a jumping off point.  Given that thyme was the starting point of this recipe, I first crumbled a generous amount into the pan.  Next I added a pinch of dried tarragon and a pinch of black salt.  (Quick note:  if you don’t know what black salt is, it’s also known as Kala Namak and can be found at Indian markets.  It has a pungent, sulfuric smell that creates an egg-like sensation in vegan scrambles quite nicely.  A little goes a long way!)  I ground a lot of black pepper into the mix next, followed by a splash of soy sauce, about a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and about a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.  Stir until everything is incorporated and heated through.



Add salt to taste.  You’re done!



Enjoy!  xo

Sexy Tacos

The “Grilled ‘Fish’ Tacos” from Brian Patton’s The Sexy Vegan Cookbook are insanely good.  I absolutely love them, and so does everyone I’ve ever served them to.  They would make an excellent lunch of dinner on a lazy summer day, so have at it!  While I urge you to get the cookbook (every single thing I’ve made from it has been delicious), in the meantime you’re in luck as I found a link to the recipe that I will include below.

For toppings, you’ll be making Patton’s “Sour Creaminess” and combining that with vegan mayo and hot sauce.  You’ll also need some cabbage and tomatoes.  Pretty simple.


The “fish” is made from extra-firm tofu that is marinated in lime juice, seaweed powder, cilantro, chipotle powder and salt and pepper.  They are cooked for about 6 to 8 minutes per side, until nicely browned.  While cooking the tofu, warm up your tortillas so they’re pliable and ready to go.



Finally, assemble your tacos and get ready to be happy!  SOOOO good!



As promised, the link:


Enjoy!  xo

Stone Fruit Salad with Sweet Almond Ricotta

It has been HOT here in the Seattle area, so we’ve been eating a lot of food that doesn’t require heating.  Lots of salads and sandwiches and fruit.  Happily, it’s stone fruit season, so the offerings are plentiful and delicious.  But this morning, I wanted to jazz things up a bit, so I turned to Judita Wignall’s terrific book, Raw & Simple.  Technically, I turned to it last night, as one of the items in this recipe requires a little planning:  you need to soak the almonds, which I did overnight.  This morning, I turned those soaked almonds into Judita’s yummy sweet almond ricotta by adding young Thai coconut meat, agave nectar, vanilla, salt and water.  Then it was just a matter of cutting up some tasty fruit, chopping up some almonds, sprinkling the whole thing with fresh mint, and whisking together the dressing ingredients (agave, olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar).  In truth, the dressing step could be skipped, since the fruit can more than stand alone.  However, the dressing definitely adds a tasty element to it, so I recommend trying it.  Simple, as Judita promised, and lovely.


Enjoy!  xo

Cocoa-Spice Cake with Crystallized Ginger and Coconut-Chocolate Ganache

It’s pretty much a rule that you should never make a recipe to share with others that you’ve not tried out beforehand. While this rule makes sense in most cases, if the recipe hails from one of Bryant Terry’s books, you can throw it out the window. Every single recipe I’ve ever made of his turns out beautifully, and every single one is something special and company-worthy. This cake was no exception. I made it to bring to a 4th of July party and it was a hit. Unique, decadent and fabulous.

The recipe is from Terry’s most recent book, Afro-Vegan:  Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Flavors Remixed.  Like his previous books, this one is a delight, filled not only with sumptuous recipes and inspiring photos, but also music and book recommendations galore.  While I certainly recommend that you pick it up as soon as possible, in the meantime, you’re in luck… the author published this recipe on his facebook page, and I am sharing it here:

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon fine raw cane sugar
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Scant 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup mashed ripe avocado, packed, about 1/2 medium avocado
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon dark Jamaican rum
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) finely chopped crystallized ginger

5 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup coconut milk
5 tablespoons raw cane sugar
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dark Jamaican rum (optional)
12 pieces thinly sliced crystallized ginger, for garnish

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil an 8-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides.

Whisk or sift the sugar, flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, cayenne, and nutmeg into a large bowl and stir with a whisk until well blended.

Put the coconut milk, oil, avocado, rum, vinegar, and vanilla extract in a blender and process until smooth (or put them in a large bowl and blend with an immersion blender until smooth). Make a well in the center or the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients and the crystallized ginger. Fold together until uniformly mixed. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread in an even layer. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Slide a butter knife around the edges, then invert the cake onto a rack and let cool to room temperature.

To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Put the coconut milk, sugar, and cayenne in a small saucepan and heat until steaming hot (avoid boiling), stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved. Slowly pour over the chocolate and let stand until the chocolate is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the rum and whisk until completely smooth. Let stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, until slightly cooled but pourable, about 5 minutes.

To glaze the cake, pour the ganache evenly over the cake and let stand until the ganache is set, about 30 minutes.

Yield: 8 to 16 servings