Summer Picnics

Summer has FINALLY arrived here on the west coast, and I couldn’t be happier.  Not only will my beans, tomatoes, peppers and squashes finally be happy, but we can start eating outside again in earnest.  Poor Skipper’s been trying to get me out in the evenings for a month, but it wasn’t much fun huddled in a sweater feeling like I was camping in March.

We’ve been eating out of the garden pretty much exclusively for the last few weeks, which is great.  One of our favorite meals on the warm days has been variations on Salad Nicoise (the c is supposed to have a do-hickey under it, but I don’t know how to do that outside of Word).  Traditionally, Salad Nicoise is a mix of new potatoes, fresh green beans, and tuna, all mixed with a garlicky vinaigrette–yum!  But we’re mixing it up with the ingredients we have on hand.

First up was the mix of purple and white new potatoes with blanched peas, salad greens (lettuce, mesclun, beet greens), spring onions/scallions, all with a sprinkle of herbs, capers and feta cheese.  The dressing is lemon juice, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, garlic, salt and pepper, and then as much olive oil as you like.  Voila!  Delicieux.

Spring Salad Nicoise!

I’m starting–I know, I’m a little slow sometimes! :)– to clue into the fact that many traditional or classic recipes DO in fact use ingredients that are available, ie harvesting, at the same time.  We’re eating an early variety of potato right now, far earlier than our green beans will be ready, but when the first bush beans are ready next month (hopefully!), there should also be new potatoes ready from the main crop.  We had the same meal a couple of nights later, only this time without the peas and added a can of local smoked albacore tuna.  Fabulous.

The second meal came out of the 10 POUNDS of fava beans that I harvested yesterday afternoon.  I had simply decided that the plants needed to come out, so I spent the afternoon chopping up the huge stalks and picking off the best beans (there were lots more I let go).  It’s a pretty good harvest from seedlings that I stuck in the ground last September, with no idea what they might come to!

I went looking for recipes, and found one classic Italian one for fava, artichoke, and pecorino (sheep’s cheese) salad.  I thought that sounded like a tasty combination–and also spoke to how favas are really a summer crop, ready when the artichokes are (also now-ish and into later summer) not an overwintering spring one as I had hoped.  I thought the salad would work well as a pasta salad for dinner, and might work even better as picnic food.

Here’s what I came up with:

Late Spring Garden Pasta Salad

Ingredients:  1 lb? Shelled fresh fava beans

1 lb pasta–shells that the beans will tuck into work well

Olive oil

Zest and juice from 1 lemon

1 head green garlic (the garlic bulbs you pull up now that haven’t cured yet)

3 sizeable spring onions, or several scallions

1 cup chopped artichoke hearts (cooked fresh, canned, or marinated)

1/2 cup ? of feta cheese, or pecorino, or other hard salty cheese

salt and pepper to taste, any herbs that might be tasty–chives, parsley…

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Add favas and blanch for a minute or two, until the skins start to split.  Pull them out with a strainer/slotted spoon, and dunk them in a bowl of cold water.  Add the pasta to the boiling water and boil until desired doneness (a little underdone means the warm pasta will soak up the salad dressing).

Taste the favas with their skins on and decide if they need to be shelled again.  Really young fresh favas are usually fine with the skins, but as they mature, the skins get bitter.  Squeeze the green insides out of the skins if necessary; they will usually pop right through the split skins after being blanched.

When the pasta is done, drain and return the pot to low heat.  Add oil, then the chopped onions and green garlic and lemon zest and herbs and fava beans.  Rinse the pasta if you like to cool it a bit, then add to the beans in the pot.  Add chopped artichoke hearts, lemon juice, cheese, salt and pepper, and more olive oil.  Stir and let sit for a few minutes, then stir again and taste, adding more seasonings as necessary.  The pasta will take up the salt and dressing, so the whole thing may need more lemon juice, oil, and seasoning after it sits for a few minutes.  Enjoy warm, cool, or cold.

We packed up our salad, added some leftover olives, mixed up a jar of the Skipper’s famous C G and Ts (gin and tonics with lots of lime and a healthy shot of unsweetened cranberry juice), and headed down to the boat.  It was a glassy evening on the water, so we motored over to a small cove, and set anchor to eat.  Bliss!

Ahh summer...
Pasta Salad Picnic

There was enough of a puff of wind to sail leisurely home across the bay.  Summer took a long time to arrive, but we’re making the most of every gorgeous moment!

4 thoughts on “Summer Picnics

  1. Oh. My. Gosh! That salad looks amazing. Can I drop by and have some? Seriously! I tried digging around my potato plants that are volunteers because they were flowering and I found three tiny new potatoes. We cannot plant potatoes in our lower big garden until we erradicate the pesky wire worms so your new potatoes are looking even more delish!

    Oh and so cool you have a boat. How big? Where do you dash off to for an evening sail? Ours is a C&C 25ft and we adore ours. Never happier than when we’re out… unless I’m bugging the bees!

    So glad to find you on here!

    1. Thanks Amanda–great to virtually connect! The salad was pretty tasty, I must admit. You never know if volunteers are going to be any good, and I was pretty skeptical, but we’ll be planting some on purpose next year! No wire worms so far, but the raised beds of imported topsoil might have something to do with it–long story for another post. And our beloved sailboat (who needs her own website, methinks) is an Alberg Seasprite 23 and we usually just sail around Cowichan Bay, Ganges is as far as we’ve gone so far, though the Skipper did circumnavigate Saltspring recently. We dream about adventures to come! On a C & C 25 you must get a little farther afield? She’s a beaut too :).

    1. Yes, I’m realizing that there’s a whole culinary basis for the impatient gardener, or perhaps the hungry family staring at the crops that look ripe but aren’t supposed to be eaten yet! It was good! Milder than the cured stuff, and you just have to take it out of a tough membrane (that I guess becomes all the papery wrapper later). A fine balance between the crop that needs to get you through the year, and the SO tempting food in front of you. Luckily, all of our garlic is volunteer, so we have no guilt :).

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