Another one of my blog-related resolutions for 2011 was to try new things. This applies to the ingredients I am using, the cooking styes & techniques, and cultural cuisines. That being said, last week while at the farmers' market, I picked up a one pound bag of dried fava beans. I have never cooked with fava beans, fresh or dried, but they run rampant at farmers' markets here, primarily in the spring when they are fresh. I had no idea what to do with them, so I let them sit on my counter and did some research.

Most fava bean recipes center around fresh favas and are often mixed with other spring-time favorites, including asparagus and peas. They all sounded fabulous, making me more excited for spring and all the fresh produce that comes along with it. But for now, I had a bag of brown, dried favas that I had to do something with. Finally after some searching, I came across a recipe that sounded delicious and also allowed me to venture into a new cultural cuisine: Ta'miyya.

Ta'miyya is an Egyptian food which is very similar to the falafel we know and love, but its primary difference is that it is made with fava beans instead of chickpeas. It is a lovely puree of soaked favas, green onions, parsley, cilantro, garlic, and spices, formed into little patties and pan-fried, providing the perfect combination of a crispy outside with a soft-warm inside. Dipped in a yogurt-mint sauce, they are a perfect appetizer and would provide great variety to the nacho-and-chicken-wing spread at your Super Bowl party. They can also be stuffed into warm pitas with sliced tomatoes and yogurt-mint sauce for a delicious sandwich. Even better, is that you can make the mixture ahead of time and cook them up only when you need them.


Makes 24 pieces

1 pound peeled, split, dried fava beans*
1 garlic clove, halved
3/4 c parsley
1/2 bunch of scallions, chopped (green tops only)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cilantro
Vegetable or olive oil

1 6-oz cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 handful of mint leaves, diced finely

Soak the fava beans in water overnight (or at least 8 hours).

The next day, drain the beans and place them in a food processor. Add the garlic and puree until ground. Add the parsley, scallions, cumin, salt, baking powder, and cilantro. Puree until the mixture is thoroughly ground and comes together. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Take a small amount (about 2 tbsp) of mixture and form into a ball with your hands. Flatten slightly then place in pan. Fry about 1-2 minutes per side, or until golden. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. If you are making them all at once, keep finished ta'miyya in a low heat oven (150-200 degrees F) until ready to serve.

To make the dipping sauce, mix the yogurt and chopped mint a small bowl. Serve alongside the fresh ta'miyya.

*Note: You can find dried fava beans at Middle Eastern grocery stores if you cannot find it at a farmers' market or food co-op. You can also substitute chick peas (garbanzo beans) if you cannot find fava beans.

Adapted from Epicurious.com


Minestrone with Cheese Tortellini

Winter days require soup. Whether you live in bitter-cold snowy winters or chilly drizzly wet winters, a good soup is the best way to warm up. I love this soup recipe because it is hearty, yet also has a wonderful mix of veggies that almost make it seem like a summer soup.

Minestrone usually calls for zucchini, which is not currently in season, but was available at my co-op. I'm not sure where it was from exactly, but I know it was grown in California and it was organic. Not sure how they pulled that one off, but hey, they did. Another reason why I love living in a place with a year-round growing season. I also used dried beans that I cooked myself, so if you are planning to use canned beans, the amount is equivalent to one can (just be sure to rinse them very well). A final note on the veggies: the size is up to you, but I love keeping the pieces big, which makes it a chunkier soup almost like a stew.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I used one thing that is not very "local." I used liquid smoke. We already had some in our cupboard (I think my husband bought it a while back), and I was craving that smokey flavor that is usually imparted on a soup through bacon or smoked ham. However, since I am a vegetarian, using either of these ingredients was out of the question. A few drops of liquid smoke did the trick. If you've got it, great, and if not, it will still be a tasty soup. And, if you are not a vegetarian, cook up two chopped-up strips of good-quality smoked bacon, and add it to the soup when you add the broth and canned tomatoes.


Minestrone with Cheese Tortellini
Makes one large pot

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 leek, trimmed and sliced thinly

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 ribs of celery, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

2 red potatoes, diced

4 cups vegetable stock or broth, preferably homemade

1 1/2 c cooked chickpeas (equivalent to 1 15-oz can)

3 1/2 c canned tomatoes (equivalent to a 28-oz can)


1 cup kale, sliced into thin strips

1 9-ounce package of high quality, all-natural cheese tortellini (locally made, if possible)

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add

the onion, garlic and leek. Saute stirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened.

Add the carrot, celery, zucchini, potato and stir around for a minute or two.

Add the stock, the chickpeas, and then the tomatoes (if your tomatoes are canned whole, break them down). Add salt to taste (be careful with this, especially if your broth is already salted) and liquid smoke, if using. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.

Add the kale and the tortellini*, and continue to cook over a simmer until both are tender and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

*If you plan on eating this over several days, cook and store the tortellini separately to prevent it from getting mushy. Then, when your ready to eat it, add a few tortellini to each portion prior to reheating.


Roasted Root Vegetable Pie with Rosemary Biscuit Topping

One of my resolutions for 2011 was being a more consistent blogger. To do that, I decided to pick out one beautiful piece of produce from my farmers' market each week, cook something with it, and then share my experience with my readers. Here it goes!

After returning from two weeks in Wisconsin and one weekend in Pasadena for the Rose Bowl, Chris and I finally made it to the farmers' market last Saturday. It had been and continues to be very cold around here, including a nice crust of frost on our lawn on Monday morning, so I thought making something warm and comforting would be a good idea. And when I think warm and comforting in the winter, I think root vegetables.

Root vegetables tend to get a bad reputation for being bland, and I do not disagree, because it seems that a lot of recipes cook them in a way that would render them flavorless. However, when cooked and seasoned properly, as well as paired with the right ingredients in appropriate dishes, root vegetables can be pretty tasty.

This recipe is an adaptation from one my mom wanted to make when Chris and I were visiting over the holidays. We made lobster risotto instead. Not to say that the recipe didn't sound like a good idea, but upon reading it I knew there were some serious adjustments to be made (that and lobster risotto is just amazing). I read the recipe a few more times, thought about it, and figured that I was ready to make my version it this week.

While at the market, there was a wonderful supply of root vegetables. I picked up two big rutabagas, two beautifully round turnips, a bright bunch of carrots, and my new ingredient - celeriac. Also known as celery root, celeriac is not the root of the celery we are familiar with, but it is in the same family. I had never cooked with it before, and have to admit it looks really weird. It's bumpy, green, and hairy. It smells, however, like fresh celery, which I was really surprised about. I snagged a few parsnips (grown in the Sacramento region) from my local co-op and I was ready to take a crack at this recipe.

You will find this recipe to be time consuming in preparation, because you have to peel and chop a lot of root vegetables. In addition, the sauce reduction takes some time. That being said, I actually did this recipe in three parts, but I show in the recipe that you can also break it into two parts, or (of course), do it all at once.

A key to this recipe is the rosemary - do not be shy with it! And please, if you can get fresh rosemary, use it. I am fortunate enough to live in a climate where my rosemary plant thrives all year, so I was able to snip it right from my backyard. For recipes like this, where rosemary plays such a central role in each component, using fresh is so much better than using dried. So if you do have to buy it, get it from your co-op, buy organic if you can, and splurge a little. You'll probably end up using all of it!

Enjoy and stay warm!

Roasted Root Vegetable Pie with Rosemary Biscuit Topping
Serves 6

2 very large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large celery root (celeriac), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 large parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large rutabaga, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 turnip, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, broken into 1/2-inch pieces, rinsed
3 tbsp unsalted butter
3 c chopped onions
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 c all purpose flour
6 c vegetable broth
1/4 c non-fat milk
2 tbsp dry sherry (brandy or cognac is fine too)

Biscuit Topping
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
4 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, diced
1 1/3 c low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt

Lightly butter a deep rectangular baking dish or cast iron braising pan. Set aside.

To make the filling, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Put all root vegetables in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, rosemary, salt, & fresh ground pepper. Roast vegetables for about 20 minutes or until fork tender, stirring around at least once during baking. When the veggies are done, cool slightly, then put in prepared pan. Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F. Do ahead: chop the root vegetables and onion a day ahead. Refrigerate in a covered container until ready to use.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary, saute for 2 minutes. Add the flour; stir for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the broth, then the milk and sherry. Add the mushrooms. Cook until the sauce is thick and reduced to about 4 cups, whisking often, about 15 minutes. Pour the sauce over the prepared vegetables. Do ahead: can be made two days ahead; Cover with foil and chill.

To make the biscuit topping, place all dry ingredients in a small bowl. Using your fingers, work in the diced butter until the mixture resembles corse cornmeal. Add the yogurt, 1/3 cup at a time, mixing with a fork after each addition, until the dough is evenly moistened, adding more yogurt by tablespoonfuls if still dry.

Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough on top of the filling. Sprinkle with pepper. Bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center of biscuit comes out clean. Let cool 15 minutes before serving.

Note: When reheating this dish later, I recommend reheating in a 350 degree F oven. Reheating in the microwave will make the biscuit topping mushy.