Meatless Monday – Crostini with Fava Beans and Lemon Ricotta

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Working with fresh fava beans is a labor of love, so this makes a perfect dish for someone you love, like your Mother! What a wonderful Mother’s Day breakfast, brunch  or appetizer for that special lady in your life! I love this combination of  crusty toasted ciabatta topped with a creamy ricotta flavored with lemon and parmesan and then piled high with fresh fava beans, spring onions, lemon zest, basil and mint.  Mmmm….It’s pretty too, especially adorned with a sprig of purple basil from my garden!

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Fava beans must be removed from their large outer pod and then skinned, a two step process which is time consuming but well worth it, for the resulting beans are tender and delicious – and only available for a few weeks every year.  If you don’t want to spend the time or you can’t find fava beans, you can substitute fresh or frozen edamame, lima beans or peas.

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Fava Beans are not only delicious, they are nutrient dense, which means they provide a lot of nutrients for a relatively small number of calories. Fava beans, also called broad beans, are very high in protein and dietary fiber and loaded with beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, important phytonutrients and minerals, including iron which is harder to come by for those on a vegetarian diet.

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TIPS:  In figuring out how many Fava beans to buy, keep in mind that one cup of fava beans turns into about a half cup once they are shelled.  A large bunch of pods (1 pound) will yield only about a cup of shelled beans depending on size.  The smaller beans are sweeter and more tender than the larger ones and cooking times vary but only by a minute or two.

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CROSTINI WITH FAVA BEANS, SPRING ONIONS AND LEMON RICOTTA

1 large bunch(1 lb) fava beans(or 1 cup shelled edamame, peas or lima beans)
1 spring onion or 2 scallions (white part only)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
6-8 slices ciabatta or sourdough bread (or about a dozen baguette slices)

Ricotta Mixture:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
2 Tbsn lemon juice (reserve lemon zest)
1/2 teaspoon salt

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  • Remove fava beans from their outer pod by cutting or bending the tip and ‘unzipping’ them by pulling the side string off.

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  • The shells also need to be removed.  Either slice and peel them off and then boil the beans for 1-2 minutes (depending on their size) or  boil in their shells for 3-4 minutes and then remove the shells by cutting or squeezing them out.  Either way, it’s a two step process. Very young fava beans may not need to be shelled and can be eaten raw or par boiled for 30 seconds.

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  • Run cold water over cooked beans to stop the cooking process and set aside.

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  • Combine all Ricotta ingredients and set aside to let the flavors develop.

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  • Thinly slice the spring onion and slice mint and basil into ribbons (also known as chifonnade)

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  • Combine fava beans, onion, mint, basil, lemon zest and olive oil in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Broil bread slices in a single layer for several minutes on each side until golden brown.

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  • Top each slice of bread with ricotta mixture and then top with a spoonful of fava beans.

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  • Serve whole or cut in half at room temperature (and kiss your Mom).

Crostini with Fava Beans & Lemon Ricotta

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 large bunch fava beans(or 1 cup shelled edamame, peas or lima beans)
1 spring onion or 2 scallions (white part only)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
6-8 slices ciabatta or sourdough bread (or about a dozen baguette slices)

Ricotta Mixture:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
2 Tbsn lemon juice (reserve lemon zest)
1/2 teaspoon salt

  • Remove fava beans from their outer pod by cutting or bending the tip and ‘unzipping’ them by pulling the side string off.  The shells also need to be removed.  Either slice and peel them off and then boil the beans for 1-2 minutes (depending on their size) or  boil fin their shells for 3-4 minutes and then remove their shells by cutting or squeezing them out.  Either way, it’s a two step process. Run cold water over cooked beans to stop the cooking process and set aside.
  • Combine all Ricotta ingredients and set aside to let the flavors develop.
  • Thinly slice the spring onion and slice mint and basil into ribbons (also known as chifonnade)
  • Combine fava beans, onion, mint, basil, lemon zest and olive oil in a large bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Broil bread slices in a single layer for several minutes on each side until golden brown.
  • Top each slice of bread with ricotta mixture and then top with a spoonful of fava beans.
  • Serve at room temperature (and kiss your Mom).

Meatless Monday – Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

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Primavera means Spring in Italian and the popular Pasta Primavera traditionally is pasta, usually spaghetti but other pasta shapes can be used, tossed with a variety of spring vegetables like asparagus, tomatoes and fresh herbs.  In spite of it’s name, it doesn’t mean you can only make this for dinner in the spring.  Pasta Primavera is a very versatile dish which allows for a wide range of vegetables to be used when they are at their best and their cheapest.  Throughout the year, the dish will change depending on whatever is in season.  I typically sauté whatever fresh vegetables looked the best at the market with garlic and olive oil, then braise in a bit of vegetable broth to make a nice sauce.  If my husband isn’t around, sometimes I will swirl in a spoonful of plain yogurt to add creaminess, then top with parmesan.  Yum!

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Today’s pasta has the gorgeous baby squash and zucchini that I couldn’t resist at the market due to their pure cuteness, as well as peas.  I didn’t see any good fresh peas so I used frozen, which are a good option.  They are frozen right after picking so sometimes they are actually fresher than ‘fresh’ peas that have been sitting around for a while. If you are using fresh peas in a pod, choose pods that are smaller.  The large pods are often filled with over mature peas that are tough and woody and only good in soups and stews.   The smaller pods usually have younger, sweeter peas.   I also added fresh basil and mint plus cherry tomatoes and lemon zest from my garden.

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To make this a healthier dish, use a whole grain pasta.  It’s easy to find good pasta made from whole grains like rice, quinoa or amaranth, all of which provide more protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber than pasta made from white flour. Don’t be fooled by packaging on regular pasta that says ‘fortified with iron or other nutrients’. That just means that nutrients like B vitamins  were removed during the refining process, and some of them are added back in.   Whole grain pasta has come a long way from when it used to be soft and gluey, so give it a try if you haven’t.  Livestrong suggests going half regular and half whole grain pasta if you’re having trouble making the switch to whole grain.

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Pasta Primavera with Summer Squash, Peas and Arugula

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3/4 lb dried penne pasta
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, shelled
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small summer squash, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 red chili pepper(or dash of red pepper flakes – optional)
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into ribbons
1-2 cups arugula or spinach
2 large shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsn lemon zest
3 Tbsn butter, olive or coconut oil
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
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  • Saute the shallots, chilis and garlic in butter or oil until soft, several minutes.  Add vegetable broth and let reduce.
  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to directions.  Drain and reserve 1 cup pasta water.

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  • Add zucchini and summer squash to the shallot mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes.  Then add peas.

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  • Add cooked pasta to vegetable mixture and stir to reheat.  Add a bit of pasta water if needed.

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  • Add cherry tomatoes, arugula, basil, mint and lemon zest and let wilt.  Add salt if necessary.  Depending on the saltiness of your vegetable broth, it may not be needed.

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  • Top with fresh parmesan, if desired.

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Meatless Monday – Zucchini & Apple Spirals with Basil & Mint Salad

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I have always wondered how to make a ‘noodle’ several feet long, like the one in Lady and the Tramp.  Well now I know the secret.  My mother in law gifted us a vegetable spiraling machine for our anniversary (Well there is no special gift or gem for 28 years of marriage, go figure! So why not a vegetable spiraler…)   I couldn’t wait to try it out – and the result is awesome.  I experimented first with zucchini and got spirals over 6 feet long.  How cool is that?  Then I spiraled some apples and fell the rest of the way in love. It is easier than a mandolin, no peeling or coring and my fingertips and knuckles remained intact.  I decided to cut the zucchini spirals into shorter pieces to make it easier to serve, but it could be fun to make each 6-8 foot strand into it’s own serving.  Your surprised diners could have their own Lady and the Tramp moments…
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Photo Credit:  http://www.kitchenmemories.com
 
For this salad, I decided to add some spiraled apples to the zucchini to add a bit of sweetness and color.  I chose Fuji since they don’t turn brown as quickly as other varieties and I love their red skins.  I also really like the combination of fresh basil and mint in summer salads, especially with a honey, citrus vinaigrette.  To make this filling enough for a main course, I added avocado and pepitos which provide nutrients and good fats that help us feel satiated.  I also sliced up some sugar snap peas to add crunch.  This salad would be good topped with blue cheese, goat cheese or feta, if desired, for an additional protein boost.  
 
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Zucchini & Apple Spiral Salad with Basil and Mint

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

 3 medium zucchini
salt
1 Fuji apple (or other firm apple)
1/4 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) or pine nuts, pistachios or hazelnuts
1/2 cup sugar snap peas
1 firm avocado
Salt
10 basil leaves
10 mint leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup avocado oil (or other light oil)
1 scant teaspoon honey (or more if you like it sweet)
Freshly ground black pepper
 
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  •  Cut the ends off the  zucchini and spiral or shred into thin strips using a mandolin or grater.  The spiraler is definitely the easiest!   Cut spirals into desired lengths if needed (about the length of a strand of spaghetti).  Put the spirals in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and let sit for 10 or 20 minutes.  Taste.  If too salty, rinse, drain and pat dry.  No need to rinse if the taste is fine, just don’t add more salt later without tasting first.

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  • Dry toast pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) on medium heat in a small skillet for a few minutes, until golden.  Add to zucchini when cool.

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  • Cut basil and mint into ribbons.  An easy trick is to stack the leaves and slice thinly cross wise. Add to zucchini. (Leave a few for garnish)

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  • Remove strings from sugar snap peas and cut lengthwise into julienne strips and add to the zucchini.

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  • Whisk oil, lemon juice, honey and apple cider vinegar together and set aside.
  • Spiral apple (core first if using a mandolin) and add to the zucchini.  Gently toss with a bit of dressing to keep from turning brown.
  • Core and chop avocado and add to the zucchini mixture.  Add a bit more dressing and gently combine.
  • Taste for seasoning and add salt if desired.

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In My Garden – June

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Somehow I missed May which went by in a blur, while I was attending weddings, graduations and bar mitzvahs.  Yet my garden survived.  I was too busy to notice my artichokes were ripe until it was too late, so I decided to let them flower.  Aren’t they glorious, and they’re not done yet!  The second one is about to bloom…

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Since I planted back in April, I have been harvesting a steady crop of lettuces.  There are a few ways to harvest lettuce (and  kale and chards).  You can cut the entire plant off at the base, remove the roots and replant.  Sometimes, a plant will regrow if you leave a few inches but I’m often too impatient to wait.  You can also just pull up the whole plant by the roots.  Or you can remove just the outer leaves and allow the plant to keep growing, which it does from the center (so don’t remove those leaves).  Eventually though, it will bolt (flower or go to seed) and you then need to harvest or cut back the whole plant.  I started my lettuces out in nice rows but by now it’s quite the hodgepodge, since I replant as I go, but I think it looks pretty that way.  I always have seedlings and mature plants going along together so something is always ready for my salad bowl .

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My tomato plants are mostly doing well and I have harvested a few tomatoes.  The Green Zebra and Black Krim were first.  This time of year, I remove all the yellowing leaves near the base of the plan!t and any others that look yellow, spotted or diseased. If you have any plants that really look sick, just pull them out and replace them with healthy seedlings.  It’s not too late . I just did that last week with one of my plants.   Tomatoes love to be buried deep and will put out more roots if you pile soil amendment around them.

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My new experiment is with companion gardening.  I have had terrible luck growing basil.  They seem to be eaten to the ground by the next morning after planting.  So I planted them among my tomato plants and they have so far lasted almost a week. Apparently tomatoes repel the critters that like basil.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

 

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I have been harvesting blueberries about a half cup at a time, just enough to eat for breakfast or add to a salad, but they are delicious!

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My zucchini is just starting to grow up the trellis and I have a few harvestable fruits.  Hmmm, recipes starting to swirl through my head…Send me your best ideas!

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Sugar snap peas are making their way up the teepee but not producing yet.

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My non GMO corn is two or three feet tall.  I have never grown corn before, I’m excited about my tiny crop!

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My main problem, though has been critters.  It’s wild animal kingdom here!  Most recently, it’s gophers. If you have ever found mounds like these that my dog, Lola, is checking out in my lawn, you know what I mean!  This time of year their babies are learning the new routes underground, so there is lots of activity and they leave giant earth mounds in their wake.  About 10 or 15 years ago I became obsessed with the gophers and went “Caddyshack”.  I have vivid memories of trying to smoke them out and running around blocking all the exits as smoke kept finding new areas to escape, as my small boys watched, noses pressed to the window.  “Mommy’s gone crazy!”  The gophers were too smart for that though and just went to lower ground to wait it out.  Over the years, however, I have just learned to co-exist with my subterranean ‘friends’.  I try to keep them off my lawn and out of my vegetable garden and pretty much let them roam to their hearts content around the rest of the property.  I have tried all kinds of home remedies, hot red pepper, hair clippings, windmills and several others to no avail.  The product that I am having the best luck on my lawn with is Repellex, which is a repellant not a poison, made with castor oil, cinnamon oil, garlic oil and white pepper. They don’t like the smell or taste and they stay away. It is non-toxic and biodegradable but wears off in about a month or so, so you have to reapply.

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The main task though is WEEDING!  Do it now while the soil is still soft or it becomes back breaking work. The second task is to  mulch or amend the soil, especially in California with our drought conditions.  Mulching provides nutrients and helps retain moisture in the soil.

I am only a weekend warrior gardener, so check out the links below for some expert gardening tips.

What To Do In the Garden in June – About.com Regional guide for ornamentals, vegetables, fruit trees, trees and shrubs and pest control.

Calendar of Gardening Tasks for June – The Garden Helper  Tips on flowers, shrubs, vegetables and lawn care (even house plants).

How to Plant a Vegetable Garden in June – eHow  For those that haven’t planted yet.  It’s not too late if you do it right!