The Infrequent Fava, Flavorsome and Fulfilling!

Darlings, darlings, DAH-lings!  Today La Diva has heard from family in Michigan that Spring has sprung, gone and done, and Summer is here, EARLY and in yo' face!   Papa Frankie said it was in the 90's today! But that doesn't mean you still can't savor the assortment of late Spring vegetables that are in season now.

Pierre Auguste Cot's "Spring" 1873

One of La Diva's Springtime favorites are fava beans also known as broad beans.  WHAT?  You've never had them?   Darlings, you don't know what you are missing!  Diva's going to have to change that right now!

Though not terribly common in the United States, these meaty beans make their way into a variety of dishes from a multitude of countries including Greece, Italy, Egypt and surprisingly, Ethiopia.    La Diva loves their hearty texture and nutty taste and truly, nothing says spring like a vegetable that explodes in bright lime green, adding a verdant lusciousness to the new season plate.  

 Not sure what to do with your fava beans, darling?  Why not follow Hannibal's lead and serve with a lovely Chianti and liver (However, a more conventional recipe would include a COW'S liver!)  Even better, why not check out  La Diva's version of this colorful and flavorful spring salad with fava beans instead?!

In spite of  the numerous times I've HAD fava beans at restaurants, and as much as I love 'em, La Diva has only made them with this particular recipe.  As fleeting as Charlie Sheen's attention span after a huge line of Tina, fava beans seem to come and go so quickly in a season that I usually only get around to making them only a few times a year.  Oh yeah, and  also because the little bastards are pretty labor intensive to prepare too!

Fava and Green Bean Salad with New Red Potatoes 

Fava beans are big.  These pods are a good half a foot long (and grow even bigger) and most likely what Jack was growing when he had his troubles with The Giant.   The actual bean is inside the pod and needs to be removed.  La Diva finds it easiest to nip off the end of each pod with her nail,  pull and peel back the fibrous string along the top and then split the pods open.

You'll usually get between three to five beans per pod of varying sizes.  Remove the pale beans and once you've finished all of them (finally!), boil  them in a pan of salted water until just tender, for only a few minutes.  Strain and let cool while you prep the potatoes and beans.

Take a pound of scrubbed, unpeeled organic, new red potatoes and quarter them.  Trim and halve a half pound of washed green beans.  In order to make less clean up work, La Diva uses a pot with a fitted steamer with the potatoes boiling in the bottom, while steaming the green beans on top.   Boil the potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes and the beans will probably take half of that time if they are really fresh.  

Strain the potatoes and put into a large bowl, then add a generous drizzle of a fruity extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt and allow the Italian salty goodness to soak into the hot spuds.  Remove the green beans from the steamer and allow to cool.

 The raw fava beans on the left look like large lima beans and cooking them helps to loosen the waxy, outside coat, which needs to be removed.  This is the labor intensive part, these suckers need to be shelled twice.  

It's easiest to remove the outer skin of the fava bean by pinching a bit of the skin away and gently squeezing to remove the slippery bean inside.  You can leave them whole or split them in half again.  Add to the salad with the green beans.

 I doused the lot with more extra virgin olive oil, mixed gently and salted again.  Now add minced shallots and a good handful of fresh mint chiffonade.  Carefully toss to blend the ingredients and check for taste.  Adjust seasonings if needed and serve slightly warm.

RESULT:  Well, now, ain't that just the prettiest salad?!   Actually, I initially looked up this recipe as a way to use purple potatoes but only found them  at the store once!   Learning to make and enjoy fresh fava beans was an unintended perk.   Imagine the purple potatoes with the lime green fava beans?!  Gorgeous!

The fava beans buttery texture complements the warm and tender new potatoes while the green beans add another textural element.  The shallots offer an unassuming, mellower -than-onion flavor, and the mint is actually quite subtlety enhancing.  A good quality olive oil is important, as it is the main flavor component bringing all the ingredients together. 

This hearty salad makes a great side but also could be quite satisfying as part of a vegetarian meal.  My favorite way to eat this is freshly made and still warm, so make sure to bring leftovers to room temperature before serving again.

Darlings, what do YOU do with fava beans?  Do you use them in savory dip?  Put them in pasta with some freshly shave parmigiano?  Have you had them in a restaurant?  Or with liver and a lovely Chianti?   DO tell La Diva, I want to hear all about it!

Ciao for now, darlings!

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Get Yer Freekeh On Middle Eastern Salad Miami cooking classes

Darlings, (or should I say "habibi?") you know, La Diva is quite the curious creature and one of my fave pastimes is to stroll around ethnic markets and discover new or unfamiliar ingredients to experiment with.  A few weeks back, I found myself at the Jerusalem Market & Deli in North Miami to pick up a few cans of harissa for my fabulous spicy harissa  chicken skewers for a La Diva Cucina bridal shower cooking class.

I'd recently read about a Middle Eastern grain that was an interesting alternative to couscous and rice called freekeh, with lofty claims of being a high protein, high fiber, nutrient rich supergrain. Looking on the shelves, I located several brands and through the bag, the grains looked exactly the same but had different names, I opted for the one called "fereek" by Cedar brands, from Egypt.  When I got home, I looked at my bulging pantry and wondered where the heck I was going to put the fereek?  The shelves were already laden with six types of rice, two types of couscous, a variety of hand made and commercial pastas, rice noodles and wraps and a box of bulgur for good measure.  La Diva stuffed the bag into a small cranny next to the orchietta and quickly shut the door before an avalanche of grains spilled out!

Freekeh is a cracked wheat but unlike bulgur which has been parboiled and the bran has been removed, it is a whole grain with the whole wheat berry cracked but intact, giving it high fiber and super nutrient qualities.  The grain is harvested when it's young, sports a brownish-lime green hue and tastes like a combination of barley and brown rice.

La Diva found an excellent article on it HERE at NUTRITION UNPLUGGED (go ON and click, darling, you know you want to!)   According to the article, the grain is one of the new little darlin's of the culinary scene, hailed by Jamie Oliver as a Superfood and is being carried at Trader Joes!  This article was posted February 2010 and La Diva wants to know why it took her so ding dang long to find out about it?!  (And WHEN is Flo-duh getting a Trader Joes?)

And now, time for.... 

La Diva's Get Yer Freekeh On Middle Eastern Salad!  

Let's assemble our ingredients.

3/4 cup small black lentils
1 cup freekeh
2 cups water
1/2 cup Bulgarian feta, drained and blotted
six leaves each of baby romaine and arugula
handful of lemon basil, mint and Italian parsley
half of a punnet of grape tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
juice of half of a lemon
sea salt and pepper

I buy these tiny black lentils at the gourmet grocery because they take only 12 minutes cooking time until tender and have a lovely taste.  Once cooked, they go from black to brown.  I cook them until slightly al dente, so they retain a nice, chewy texture.  I drain the lentils, put in a bowl to cool but while still hot, add salt and a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.

I used my electric rice cooker for the fereek/freekeh using 2 cups water to 1 cup grains with a dash of salt.  I put the freekeh in a bowl to cool and like the lentils, added a nice drizzle of the extra virgin oil.  Once cooled, I mixed the lentils and grain together in a large bowl and crumbled creamy Bulgarian feta into the mix!

 La Diva's garden plot, THE place to go for fresh herbs!  (click on photo to enlarge!)

No tasty salad would be complete without fresh greens and herbs and La Diva's garden plot would provide all that I needed!  I picked a few leaves of baby romaine and arugula and then Italian parsley, mint and lemon basil.  Darlings, did you know you can wash your herbs in the salad spinner as well as lettuce?  I always give my herbs a good soaking as the only crunch La Diva wants in her salad is from vegetables or nuts, NOT DIRT, which has an annoying habit of sticking to the plants like glue!  So, after a good spin to dry them, I did a quick chiffonade of all the greens and added to the salad with halved grape tomatoes.

A quick squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a bit of sunshine and tang, I adjusted the seasonings with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and voila!  La Diva's Get Yer Freekeh On Middle Eastern salad was complete!

 RESULT:  The freekeh salad turned out to be a very nice HEARTY salad that was satisfying enough power La Diva all day. The freekeh was chewy with a slightly grassy taste, not unlike brown rice, with a hearty texture.  The lentils add more substance and fiber and the cheese a  delightfully creamy tang.  The lemon and herbs meld and brighten, yet their varied essences truly enhance the salad's flavor:  the pepper of the arugula, the cooling mint and lemon from the basil.  And then, a pop of juicy, sweetness from the grape tomatoes!  La Diva was so delighted with the results of this simple salad and it fueled La Diva all afternoon!

This salad would be a great accompaniment with grilled garlic lamb or lemony chicken breasts or would be perfect for piling onto a plate of greens for a vegetarian main meal, it's so satisfying.

So darlings, what grain do YOU use to get yer freak on?   Anything out of the ordinary that La Diva should know about?  (Diva doesn't like being left out!)  DO tell me all about it, darlings!  Ciao for now!


Darlings!  It's time to get serious for a minute.  I want to talk to you about hunger....REAL hunger.  The kind of hunger you might not have ever had to experience yourself.  The hunger that comes from being hungry but not being able to satiate that hunger by going to the refrigerator, the kind of hunger that comes from not actually having enough food to eat.  La Diva is talking about hunger pangs where you are given water or tea instead of food to make the pangs go away.

This is the hunger many, MANY American children are experiencing right now. Yes, in AMERICA.  And that is a crying shame.

Two days ago, I was asked to participate at

Miami Area Food Bloggers Bake Sale for Share Our Strength

at Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens on Saturday, May 14, 2011.  All I did was say that I'd like to support a fellow Florida Blogging Buddy Freakin' Flamingo, and next thing you know, La Diva was on the team, given my own pledge page and raising money! 

I have been asking for donations since 7 am this morning and now, at 3:30 pm Friday, I have more than doubled my goal of $250 with $600 in donations!  Why?  Cuz I'm a pushy Diva and I truly believe in this cause.  Here's what helped bring the issue home to La Diva personally:

CBS 60 Minutes "Hard Times Generation: Homeless Kids." 

 I am from Michigan and my sister works for a non-profit in the suburbs of Detroit.  She sees first hand families that have lost their homes and now reside in  run-down yet exorbitant hotel rooms.  These are people like you and me, people who had a nice home before now and people who had jobs.  These are not crack heads.  These are not people that "don't want to work."  These are good people that lost their jobs, these are families.  They could be your neighbors.  Or a child your kid goes to school with.

 And if you think to yourself, "I don't have a lot of money to donate," let me illustrate what your money can do to help:

  • $1 can help provide a hungry child with 10 healthy meals. 
  • $4 can help provide a child facing hunger with a backpack full of healthy food over a weekend when school meals are not available. 
  • $9 can help connect a child with healthy lunches during summer when school is out. 
  • $35 can help a child care center provide free afterschool snacks and suppers to at-risk children all year long. 
  • $65 can provide a grab-n-go breakfast cart to an elementary school so that every student starts every school day with a healthy meal.

 So, PLEASE donate TODAY and help feed a hungry kid!  Because no kid in this great country of ours should go hungry.  Click HERE to donate.

  Also participating at the bake sale tomorrow are local celebrity bakers, Cupcakes Nouveau of Coral Gables and 2 Girls and a Cupcake of Miami, and they are contributing cupcakes to sell, Dunkin' Donuts of South Florida, delicious and unusual Freakin' Flamingo is offering local micro-batch jams and other baked delights. Paula from Mango and Lime dulce de leche oatmeal cookies,  blogger Trina from Miami Dish is offering FABULOUS  coconut sandwich cookies with mango papaya jam.   Additionally cookbooks, cooking classes and a gift certificate to Chef Michael Schwartz's Michael's Genuine will be raffled off!

Here is my contribution to the bake sale tomorrow, my luscious lime custard and toasted coconut bars!  You can get the recipe for these delightfully tart and tasty treats by clicking HERE. 

If you are in Miami, please stop by Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and buy some of our tasty delights!

 For more information on Share Our Strength, please click HERE.



LA DIVA:  $680 in donations, $20 towards baked goods and contributed 30 $2 lime bars.  Our total take for the day was $1,689! Thanks to all who donated! xo

UPDATE:  Donations keep trickling in.....add another $105 to my target! Total raised for La Diva: $785 and total for our team: $1794!!!

Crawfish 'n' Food Trucks at Miami's Tobacco Road

Darlings!  A few weeks ago La Diva and DJ Nevah L8 (4 dinnah!) were itchin' to get on our bikes and go for a decent ride, at least 10 miles, as it was a stellar Sunday in Miami.   One of our fave Sunday rides is to go to downtown Miami as the weekday traffic is gone and the streets are OURS!  To make the ride more pleasurable, we usually like to ride to an event or outdoor festival, so I checked to see what was happening.  I found that Tobacco Road, established in 1912 and the oldest bar in Miami, was holding its 11th Annual Crawfish Boil.  Tobacco Road and The River Oyster Bar are on South Miami Avenue just west of downtown in Brickell.  They have a huge parking lot out back (with trees!) and is a perfect location for the festival and food trucks. Even though we'd just eaten a large breakfast, the promise of free live music was enticing.

Food trucks are not allowed on Miami Beach and I have yet to go to any of their gatherings off of the beach,  so needless to say, until this day, La Diva has not seen any of the trucks that have been tooling around Miami and feeding the masses!  Today would be my chance to check some of them out.

The Fish Box is the food truck from La Cameronara, a well established local fish market and seafood counter in Little Havana.  They do the usual shrimp and dolphin fish sandwiches but are known for the Minuta, a sandwich served on Cuban rolls and made from ultra-fresh yellowtail snapper that has been boned, lightly breaded and fried with its tail still attached.

Yellow Submarine offers a variety of sandwiches and all of the menu items are named after songs.  And I've been told that the hot dogs and hamburgers are served Colombian style.  According to my dear friend Corinna, you've not LIVED until you've eaten a Colombian hot dog!  You can read more about their menu HERE at Burger Beast's blog.  This day they were serving ceviche for $5.

 The ceviche was a pretty decent size and a refreshing, low fat option amongst all the fried fare.

 The Sakaya Kitchen is a fave restaurant of La Diva that I don't get to nearly enough, especially considering how rare good Asian food is here.  The Midtown Miami cafe was started a little over a year ago by Chef Richard Hale.  Hale worked for a while in New York for Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and also traveled around Asia and brings a decidedly Korean flavor to his menu.  The accompanying food truck is called Dim Ssam a Gogo which offers more of the same.   Today DSAG was flogging their pork buns stuffed with 8 hour cooked pork, cucumbers and ssamjang sweet chili sauce.  Mmmmmmm....

Peter, who works in fish conservation, accommodated La Diva by taking a massive, juice-runnin'-down-the-hand bite of his pork bun. La Diva was tempted to ask him to share!

I don't claim to understand this dish called "Sort of Korean Spicy Tator Tots."  But I must admit, they DO look tasty!  Crunchy, fried taters with spicy sauce and stuff!

 La Diva and the DJ had no idea just how popular crawfish are to Miamians! Standing room only at all of the wooden bench tops and everyone suckin' heads with a concentrated focus!  Even though both of us were still pretty full from breakfast, the spicy smell of Old Bay seasoning permeated the festival, titillating our noses!

 That's when I spotted Chef David Bracha, my old boss from my first bar job upon landing in Miami:  The River Oyster Bar.   Located just west of downtown Miami, it's one of the city's best oyster bars and seafood restaurants and has a huge lunch and happy hour crowd  including mostly professionals from nearby downtown.  Daily oyster selections include malpeque, kumamoto, blue point and gulf oysters.  They also offer ceviche, tiradito, excellent burgers and beautifully fresh fish. 

The crawfish were cooked and then loaded into dozens of these insulated coolers, keeping the spicy crustaceans warm and ready.  As fast as the cook could spoon 'em out, they were being sold to hungry customers.  For $15, you got a very generous scoop of the succulent and spicy crawfish.

 There was a really nice crowd at the crawfish festival and in spite of the numbers, there was plenty of room, food and drink for all to enjoy.  

The River Osyter Bar was offering their specialty: fire-roasted oyster with Spanish manchego cheese and chorizo.  I thought they looked delicious but then again as one who really enjoys the delicate flavor of raw oysters was wondering just how much oyster you'd actually taste under all that spice and cheese?  Still, La Diva wouldn't turn down one if it was put under her delicate nose and was certain I could down an entire plate by myself!  Haha!

Even though La Diva and the DJ were hanging around the food trucks in order to check out the grub, we were disappointed that we didn't see a heck of a lot of food coming out.  Most of the food that was being served was put into bags or (gasp!) styrofoam boxes!  Sakaya is one of the few trucks that served food we could see (and they also use recycled and biodegradable materials for plates and serving utensils.)

In the end, this was all just TOO MUCH for my big bear man.  The intoxicating smells of meat grilling and food frying and cheese melting that was wafting through the crowd was  just too tantalizing!  So, instead of succumbing to our primal desires, we cycled home, keeping our diets and calorie consumption in check!

Now that it's getting warmer in most of the States, I am looking forward to hearing about festivals and food trucks in YOUR area!  DO TELL La Diva all about it, darling!  Ciao for now!