I love you, California. I really do. But you make it damn hard for me to get inspired what to cook for dinner. This sensational salad with fennel, fava beans, goat cheese and crunchy almonds didn’t came easy.
The moment it’s about time to start cooking my heart’s all salads, but my head knows it won’t be when I actually sit down to have my dinner.
Summer days are hot here, in my corner of the Bay Area. Actually, no, that’s not correct. Afternoons are hot. Like .. really hot.
In the nineties.
Thirties if you do Celsius.
Fresh crispy leaves. Slightly bitter even. A few crunchy nuts. Bright tomatoes. An embracing dressing. Nothing heavy. That’s where my mind’s wondering off in the afternoon when I’m starting to think about what to cook later.
But I know I cannot let California fool me and make a light, bright salad for dinner. By the time I actually will enjoy my dinner, it’s freezing. Okay, not really freezing, but I feel it’s like that. I know I will want hearty, full-filling, like, real meals by that time. No, I will need those.
So to settle things between my heart and head I go for something in between.
I know I have to.
A sensational salad that’s filling and can count as a meal. But still doesn’t need much work. Not much thinking. And has my desired crunchy fresh leaves. Ingredients can be cooked yesterday, pulled out the fridge today.
Meal salads are a home cooks lifesaver here in California.
Last week I made a few of those meal salads, testing ideas and recipes for my upcoming Sensational Salads Class*. Two of them are on the short list to be taught.
This one isn’t.
There might not be any fresh fava beans available late August. But I wanted to take my change with these last ones of the season.
I love you, California! I really do. I love you, with your long hot seasons full fresh produce.
Oh, and sorry.
Sorry for being such a Dutch.
* Interested in taking this class, or my other classes? Sign up for my mailing list and you’ll the first to receive the schedule AND get my future blog posts in full in your mailbox. Sometimes I spice the mailings a little bit up with an extra recipe.
Fava beans can be a bit overwhelming, but by peeling the beans twice they almost become Summerly. Sweeter at least. Raw fennel is bright and anise-y, cooked and caramelized soft, sweet and hearty. The goat cheese fulfills the harmony role here.
I use for dinner for 2:
* 1/3 lb | 150 gr peeled fava beans (see tip)
* 1/4 cup millet
* 1/4 cup slivered almonds
* 2 small fennels
* olive oil
Tip: The best part of the salad is breaking the fresh fava beans and peeling out the beans. Because that’s a job that can be done outside, in the sun if you like. The strong, bitter flavor of the big grey-ish fava beans can be diminished by cooking them 1-2 minutes and peeling them again to find the much softer and sweeter green little beans inside.
Yes, it is some work, so take your time here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tip 2: No fava bean season? Check the freezer!
* 1 clove garlic
* 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
* 1 lemon
* 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
* 1-2 tablespoons honey
* 2 hands full of (mixed) lettuce
* 1/3 cup soft goat cheese
Tip: And yes, blue cheese would be good as well. Just go for a mild one.
Here’ what I did:
Cook the millet. Both in their own pots with salted water. See package for cooking time for the millet. Taste the fava beans and cook a few minutes if you like them softer.
Heat your skillet with the almond slivers in it. Let them brown and in the meantime slice the fennel 1/2 inch | 1 cm thick. Save the fennel fronts. Keep an eye on those almonds! Remove the golden brown almonds from the skillet, pour in a gulp of olive oil and brown the fennel. In portions if they don’t fit all at once.
Make a garlic paste by crunching garlic and fennel seeds in a mortar with a pestle. Add zest of the lemon, half the lemon juice, thyme, honey and some salt. When all the fennel slices are browned on both sides, scoop all back in the skillet and add the garlic paste and about 1/4 cup | 50 ml water. Let caramelize on low heat until the fennel is done to your liking.
Start plating. Divide cleaned lettuce over a nice big dish or 2 plates. Add millet, fennel (don’t wash the pan yet!), fava beans and crumbled goat cheese.
Make the vinagrette by scraping all the bits in the skillet with a flexible spatula. Stir in the rest of the lemon juice, 2-3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste and pour over the salad.
Garnish the salad with the almonds and fennel fronts.
If the fava beans are out of season in your part of the world, why don’t you try this sensational Millet salad with beets, roasted red onion, feta cheese and Serrano ham? This is one of the salads that is on my short list for my Sensational Salad Cooking Class.