What's cookin', good lookin'?!: My experiments with dinner, Spring edition
The other week, I went out to City Farm SLO (a Farm to School CC participant) for their Saturday volunteer day, something I’ve done in the past, but not for quite some time (cuz, you know, COVID).
City Farm SLO is growing all kinds of beautiful fruits and vegetables! Photo courtesy of City Farm SLO.
I enjoy helping at the farm because it gets me outdoors and out of my typical routines. There’s something really refreshing about doing new tasks and learning new skills, even (or especially?) when my pants end up totally filthy.
Plus, the farm is teaching young people how to farm, and their students are harvesting produce for San Luis Coastal USD! So, in addition to the goodness of being outdoors, I get to hear about all the exciting work that is going on in our farming community!
Other rewards from by 3 hours of volunteer work included: picking the farmer’s brain about how to grow my garden at home, and, most exciting - VEGETABLES!! I took home: mixed salad greens, green onions, fresh eggs, tomato starts, eggplant starts, and fava beans!
I was excited, of course, but also slightly worried - how was I going to eat all of that and make sure none went to waste?!
Salad greens are pretty easy to use up, especially if you like salad (hehe).
The green onions can just go in the salad.
The eggs? Also easy - fried over easy, please!
The plant starts have been lovingly tucked into their new home - my little raised bed in the garden.
Now, fava beans…..what to do with these leguminous morsels…..?
I remembered that I had had favas on toast once at a restaurant. I believe they served them with ricotta cheese, lemon, olive oil, and salt + pepper. But, that’s more of a lunch snack and I wanted to figure out how to make dinner with them. (Shout out to all you parents that have to brainstorm what to make for dinner every night!)
After a little internet searching, I found that favas go well with pasta (thanks to all the Italian Grandma’s and Grandpa’s who no doubt influence many of the fava food blogs out there!). Some other flavors they are paired with: parsley, lemon, Romano cheese, onion.
Great! I had all of those in my possession, no need for an extra grocery run.
First, I have to shuck (shell?) the favas. This is slightly tedious, but if you put on some tunes it goes pretty quick.
It also helps to think of shelling the beans as a treasure hunt, that way, kiddos can be convinced to help!
Then, I blanch the freed beans for about a minute so that they are tender, but not mush. I take ‘em out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately chill them in an ice bath so that they don’t keep cooking.
Keep the boiling water on simmer so that it’s ready for your pasta!
Now I get my sauce going: lots o’ extra virgin olive oil, half a chopped onion, a healthy amount of garlic (in my house, that’s about 8 large cloves - we like to keep ourselves vampire proof), 4-5 sprigs chopped flat leaf parsley, zest and juice of 1 lemon. I simmer the onion and garlic first until they are soft, before I add the other ingredients. Then I let them all meld together on low while I continue the fava process.
I tend to lean towards recipes that focus on fresh, higher quality ingredients, with not too much fan fare. Quality over quantity = easy (for me) weeknight meals!
After the beans are chilled, you gotta go one step further and remove the skins. I found that pinching the end off let me squeeze the beans right out of the skin.
Again, use the tunes if the tedium gets too real!
Don’t add these to the sauce until you’re ready to put the whole shebang together.
That green is gonna look fantastic in the pasta!
Cook your pasta as you usually do. Personally, I’m an al dente kinda lady, but you let those noodles go as long as you like!
When the pasta is ready, drain it, but save some water for the sauce. Toss the pasta into the olive oil mixture and stir to coat all the noodles. Add pasta water if you need more coat-age.
Grate a generous heap of Romano on top, salt and pepper to taste. And now, you guessed it, toss in those favas! Buono appetito!
It was a very tasty meal, and pretty easy on a weeknight :). I added a few other odds and ends that I needed to use up - some ground beef, green onions, and some tomatoes. Oh, and ravioli because, well, they’re delicious.
A recap in case my whimsy above was less than amusing:
Note: If you have 1 pair of hands, the meal should take about 30-40 minutes to make. If you have more than 1 pair of hands, it should take fewer minutes, depending on the skill level of those extra hands ;)
2 pounds fava beans in the pod
3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4-5 sprigs fresh, flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 medium lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 lb pasta
1/4 - 1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
Optional: chopped green onions, ground beef, sliced tomatoes, ravioli
Shell fava beans.
In a medium sauce pan, boil 6-8 qrts water. Toss in shelled beans and let boil 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon and immediately place in ice bath. Save boiling water for pasta.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium. Toss in chopped onions and garlic and stir occasionally until soft. Add parsley, lemon zest and juice and stir to combine. If using meat, add to sauce at this point and cook to brown. Turn heat to medium-low and let meld.
Add pasta to boiling water and cook as directed.
When cooked to your liking, remove pasta with slotted spoon and add to sauce. Stir to coat and add pasta water as needed.
Salt and pepper to taste and toss in cooked fava beans. Add optional ingredients and toss all together.
Serve with more grated Romano.
If you want to learn more about how to grow food, head over to City Farm SLO’s website and find out about their volunteer days! And, if you know a farmer who is interested in participating in Farm to School, send us their information and our Coordinator will contact them!