Every year, one of the stylists I work with and her husband throw a fabulous garden party. Their yard is beyond beautiful - large and sprawling, with lush green grass, mature trees, and well-tended flower gardens. The variety of colors and textures in their gardens is breathtaking - almost as breathtaking as the ivy covered arbor that divides the upper gardens from the lower gardens. And that is almost as breathtaking as the beautiful lakefront view from the edge of the lower garden. No matter where you look in their garden, you are met with beauty and grace of the best kind.
The guest list is large and diverse; they invite all of their friends and bunch of people from the Minneapolis commercial photo industry, of which I am a part. I look forward to the garden party each year because the people in this industry are just lovely - there is a true feeling of commaraderie among everyone, and I feel lucky to work with so many great people.
With my list of dietary restrictions, potlucks seem to more closely resemble obstacle courses than a carefree party. But despite this, I still love them dearly, and get excited every time one pops up on my social calendar. What can I say, I'm a sucker for anything with a great communal spirit. So, I always bring something I want to eat to share with everyone, supplement with a few other goodies in my purse, and scavenge whatever else I can from the buffet line. Then, I pig out. And I love it.
My dad was in town last weekend, and we came up with a great salad to bring to the garden party on Saturday night. Layers of fresh, soft lettuce leaves topped with crispy kohlrabi matchsticks and a melange of fava beans, roasted zucchini, and carmelized onions, finished with a dose of dill and garlic scape pesto. On the side, we had small bowls of Hungarian sheep feta and crushed pistachios for optional garnishes. We gathered most of our ingredients from the farmer's market that morning and the rest from a local Middle Eastern market. Nothing makes for great food like high quality, fresh ingredients!
This salad was really fun to make. We had never used fava beans before, and that was a fun adventure. Our spontantous dill and garlic scape pesto turned out really well; I found a lovely deal on fresh
(see photo below of a scape!) and dill at the farmers market. I found myself sneaking spoonfuls of the pesto and spreading it over crackers and caviar for a mid-afternoon snack, yum! And we found the most amazing Hungarian sheep feta, bought in bulk at one of my fav Middle Eastern markets - this cheese is creamy, not too sharp, and unlike any feta I've ever had. In the end it looked beautiful, bright green dotted with creamy white and hints of deep purpley red.
While everyone else had plates full of the requisite coleslaw, seven-layer bars, and potato salad, I had a plate filled to the brim with this salad. I relished in the mix of textures and fresh flavors, and went back for a big second helping. It tastes like summer.
ONE NOTE: The ingredients are simple, but honestly, this salad is a little fussy and not exactly quick to prepare. But it is delicious, and worth the effort.
FAVA BEAN ZUCCHINI SALAD WITh DILL-GARLIC SCAPE PESTO (gluten free, vegan/vegetarian)
yield: enough for a potluck or a big dinner party. In other words, A LOT.
2 lbs fava bean pods (yields about 1 c shelled, peeled beans)
6-7 small zucchinis
2 large red onions
2 medium kohlrabi
2 small heads lettuce, or 1 large (I used 1 head each red and green)
2-3 Tblsp dill-garlic scape pesto (see recipe below)
4 oz. crumbled sheep milk feta***, 1/2 c crushed pistachios
PREPARE THE FAVAS >>>
- Remove beans from pod. Each pound of bean pods yields roughly 1/2 c of shelled pelled beans.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Blanch the beans for about 1 minute. Drain, and transfer immediately to a bowl of cold water. Let sit a few minutes to cool - this helps loosen the skin from each bean.
- To peel skin, pinch the skin to loosen, or use a small knife (photo at right). Pinch the bean, and it will slip out.
- Bring water to boil once again, and let shelled, peeled beans cook for about 3-4 minutes, until bright green and tender. Drain beans. Too cool quickly, if desired, place in a large bowl of cold water.
- Set beans aside.
ROAST THE ZUCCHINI >>>
- Preheat oven to 450* F.
- Slice zucchini on an angle in 1/4 inch slices, and transfer to a large roasting pan or baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat.
- Roast for 25-30 minutes until softened and slightly golden, stirring every 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool.
CARAMELIZE THE ONIONS >>>
- Half onion lengthwise. Then slice each half crosswise in 1/2 inch slices.
- Coat a large saute pan with oil, and heat on low-medium. Add onions, stir to coat, and cover. Leave covered and let cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, and recovering. If onions start to burn or brown to quickly, reduce heat.
- Once onions are soft, transparent, and brown, turn heat up slightly, remove cover, and saute for about 5-10 minutes. This will add a great sweet flavor.
- Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.
MAKE THE PESTO >>>
- See the recipe below for the pesto recipe.
- In a large bowl, mix together a few tablespoons of pesto with the zucchini, onions, and fava beans. Stir gently to coat vegetables evenly. For ultimate tastiness, let sit in fridge for at least an hour, or for as long as 1-2 days if you want to make in advance.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD, FINALLY >>>
- Wash and peel kohlrabi, and slice into matchsticks.
- Wash and dry lettuce leaves. If really large, you may want to tear them slightly. Layer leaves onto a large platter.
- Arrange kohlrabi matchsticks on top of lettuce leaves, leaving a border of lettuce leaves around the edge.
- Pour zucchini mixture over kohlrabi, leaving a border of kohlrabi around the edge.
- If desired, sprinkle with crumbled feta and/or crushed nuts. Or, place cheese and nuts in charming little bowls, and serve on the side.
- Serve immediately, or cover with saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
DILL GARLIC SCAPE PESTO (gluten free, vegan)
yields about 1/2 c pesto
1/2-3/4 c c packed dill
1/4 c packed Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 garlic scapes (or one garlic clove if you don't have scapes)
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp agave nectar
1/2 tsp salt
about 1/2 c olive oil
- Wash dill and parsley. Remove parsley leaves and dill fronts, measure, and place in blender with other ingredients.
- Blend until smooth, adding more olive as necessary to reach desired consistency. Adjust seasonings as your taste buds dictate.
- Use for salad, and store and leftovers in fridge for up to 5-6 days. Freezes well in ice cube trays for longer storage!
A note on feta:
Traditionally, feta was made with sheep milk, not cow milk. Most high quality, imported fetas will still be produced this way. Domestic fetas, on the other hand, are generally made with cows milk. These are fetas used at most restaurants and found in most grocery stores. For those of us that do not tolerate cows milk well, sheep or goat feta is a great choice. If you want to find sheep or goat milk feta, there are a few brands that sell at higher quality grocery stores and co-ops - just check the labels and you are bound to find it! In my experience, French sheep feta is the most common and easy to locate at a regular grocer. However, a trip to a good natural foods shop, middle Eastern market, or cheese store would yield many additional varieties, all made the traditional way with sheeps milk - like Greek, Hungarian, or Bulgarian. Like all cheeses, each is unique in its flavor and texture, and stand out miles ahead of cows milk feta. You may even find the opportunity to purchase in bulk, and sample each variety! Just make sure you ask on the source of the milk before digging in.