Summer brings overflowing CSA boxes and a rainbow of fruits and vegetables to the farmer's market. Although the fresh produce is a welcome treat, it can be overwhelming to be faced with 10 types of leaves in varying shades of green with names like mizuna, tatsoi, and shiso that sound like monsters from a Japanese animation flick.
How to start taming these creatures? Here are a few hints: Haricots verts is French for green beans. They are basically the same as their American cousin, only longer, thinner, and weaker, like most things French. Mizuna and tatsoi are both variations of a field mustard which have been bred for use in cooking. They have a peppery flavor similar to arugula and can be used similarly, in salads, sauteed with olive oil and garlic, or in sauces and as garnishes. Pea vines are the tender shoots of snow peas. They have a similar flavor and can also be sauteed or stir-fried with butter to accompany meats or spicier fare. Instead of retreating to the familiarity of spinach and kale, read on to find out how to use other seemingly alien produce.
Fava Beans: It's really no wonder that the fava bean hasn't become as popular in America as it has been for centuries in Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. This fussy lima bean on steroids takes hours to prepare, and if there's one thing Americans hate, it's time-intensive food prep. That said, if your idea of a perfect afternoon includes shucking, boiling, and removing waxy coatings from large green legumes, the smooth texture and nutty flavor of the bean has been heralded as well worth the effort, and once the labor is behind you, they're fairly easy to use.
At the farmers market you will likely find them still encased in their placid green pods, which should not be cracking open, as this indicates an old bean. If it still sounds like too much work, here is a recipe that may inspire you to take on the demanding beans.
Fava Bean Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Shaved Manchego Cheese
4 cups shucked fresh fava beans
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound Manchego cheese, shaved thinly (or Asiago or Romano)
2 tablespoons finely chopped flatleaf parsley
Fill a bowl with ice and water. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the fava beans and cook until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and shock in ice water. Drain again and remove outer skins. Place the beans in a medium serving bowl. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, garlic and olive oil and whisk until blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the beans and mix well. Add the cheese, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.
Kohlrabi: Remember biting the tops off broccoli when you were a kid and pretending you were a dinosaur eating the leaves off trees? If you were that one kid who actually preferred the stems to the tops, then this is the vegetable for you. Kohlrabi is a bulbous green or purple vegetable that tastes like mild, sweet broccoli stems. It's from the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, and can be eaten either cooked or raw. To serve it raw, use a paring knife to peel away the outer skin of young kohlrabi, slice it, and serve on vegetable platters, add to salads, or grate and toss with dressing and grated apple or carrot for a fresh summer slaw. To cook, leave the outer skin on and steam or boil until tender, then season with herbs, salt and pepper, butter or cheese, or use the following recipe to get a taste for how the vegetable is commonly used in India.
Kohlrabi sidedish(Navalkola sukke)
1 cup kohlrabi (Navalkolu/navilkosu) (cut into small pieces)
½ cup onion (cut into small pieces)
¾ cup coconut (fresh or frozen)
4-5 red chilies
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon urad daal
½ teaspoon tamarind
½ teaspoon jaggery
1 teaspoon oil
Cook kohlrabi in cooker.
Heat 1/2 tsp of oil and fry coriander seeds and urad daal. Grind them with coconut, jaggery, red chilies, and tamarind by adding just sufficient water(do not make the masala too watery).
Heat remaining oil and fry onion. Add cooked kohlrabi and ground masala. Add salt and cook till masala is done and the dish becomes almost dry.
Serve as a side dish with rice and daal/gravy or with chapathi.
Sorrel: Eating sorrel is like playing Russian roulette with plants. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but it is true that in large doses the oxalic acid that gives the leaf its sour flavor can be fatal. So don't make the plant the base of your new Hollywood crash diet, but do use it to flavor soups, sauces, and quiches (any reasonable quantity won't do harm). With a flavor reminiscent of kiwi or strawberry, this plant is worth the defying death for. Just make sure to buy young, tender leaves that are less bitter and acidic than older shoots.
Sorrel and Goat Cheese Quiche
2-3 cups sorrel, coarsely chopped
a few scallions, chopped
3-4 ounces goat cheese (chevre)
1½ cups milk
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread goat cheese (or any strong flavored cheese) in the bottom of a pie crust. Cover with chopped sorrel and scallions. Beat eggs, salt and milk together. Pour over greens. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Shiso: Turns out the green plastic grass that garnishes your favorite grocery-store sushi tray isn't just a reminder that the fish you're buying is probably at least a day old. It's inspired by a real plant, shiso (aka perrilla), a green or purple spiky leaf from the mint family that tastes like basil or fennel with a note of cinnamon. It can be eaten raw, cooked, or pickled, and used similarly to mint or basil to flavor meats, salads, soups, or even pizza.
Wafu (Japanese-style pesto) with Tofu
20 fresh shiso leaves
1 heaping tablespoon ginger, minced
zest of 1 orange (or other orange citrus), 1 tablespoon reserved
3 to 4 tablespoons juice of any orange citrus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
fresh coarsely ground black pepper
1 tub silken tofu (about ½ pound)
Blend everything except the tofu in the blender. Divide the tofu into two or three of your prettiest bowls, and spoon over the sauce. Taste for salt, and garnish with the reserved zest.
Sea Beans: These asparagus-like green stalks are often described as seaweed because of their appearance and intensely salty flavor. They last about a week in the refrigerator, and if they begin to lose their firmness, can be revived by soaking for five minutes in ice water. Use them in salads, stir fry, sea bean tempura, or as alien fingers for your next costume.
Sea Bean Stuffed Avocado
1 whole organic avocado
6 tablespoons sea bean (salicornia), finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 clove organic garlic, mashed
Cayenne pepper to taste
Cut the avocado in half.
Loosely fill the center of each half of the avocado with 3 tablespoons sea bean. Sprinkle a few chopped pieces on cut edge for garnish.
To prepare the dressing, mix and whisk remaining ingredients just before serving.
Fill sea bean center with dressing and drizzle dressing over avocado. Serve with sea bean "spike" and slice of lemon.