Fava, Sweet Pea & Blue Cheese Spring Salad
Nudging broccoli and parsnips into the corners of farmers market tables, sweet peas, asparagus and favas are taking over. Lambs are dotting the Sonoma hills, and the amazingly cute pics cheesemakers are posting of newborn goats are suggesting that winter has had its way with us. For now. The seasons have spoken. Bunnies, strawberries, goat's milk cheeses and lamb are ready to rule our world.
To celebrate this taste takeover, I'm sharing a recipe for one of my favorite spring salads. It combines favas, sweet peas, chick peas, and mint.
The first time I heard about the combination of blue cheese, peas and mint was from an ex that was attempting to help me deal with my cheese consumerist issues by finding us recipes to utilize my purchases. That day I learned of the combo, I had just gotten home from buying what was perhaps a pound too much of Roquefort. Normally this wouldn't be an issue. However, because a day or two prior, I went on a French cheese binge at Cheeseboard, we were also housing large amounts of Époisses, Comté, Tome de ____, Tomme de ____, and, you get it. I overbought, and every cheese was at it's ripest and gooiest, because that's how I roll at the cheese shop.
When he told me he thought we should test out a recipe he just read that combined mint, peas, and blue cheese I thought he was crazy. I thought the recipe writer was crazy too. But because I'm never one to turn down food when someone cooks it for me, especially when it involves any sort of dairy -this one also involved copious amounts of butter- I said I'd be willing taste it if he cooked it. I loved it.
The peas act as a sort of honey with the blue cheese, offering their sweetness to tame any overwhelming piquant notes, and the lively mint brings out the peppery notes in the blue without dwelling on the cheese's fierceness.
This salad could also be made with a fresh goat's milk cheese, as might be typical with the season, but if you haven't tried blue and cheese, try it. If your reasoning for wanting to substitute chevre is because you think you might miss out on the lively spring goat cheese, never fear- chèvre recipes are forthcoming!
I used Jersey Blue in this salad. Details about the cheese next week. If you can't find Jersey near you, try another creamy, buttery blue like Roquefort, something lush from Willapa Hills, or Rogue Blue. The rest of the salad is all snap and crunch, the cheese will serve to add a little softness.
Fava, Sweet Pea & Blue Cheese Spring Salad
makes 2-3 servings
3/4 pound fava beans, in pods and shells
6 oz sweet peas, de-stemmed
1 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
2 green onions, white part thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
40 mint leaves, washed and patted dry
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dijion mustard
3 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 dash freshly ground pepper
1-2 ounces of blue cheese per person
Bring a medium pot of salted water (salt so it tastes like the sea) to a boil. While the water's heating, de-pod the favas. If it helps, think of the de-podding minutes as valuable time provided to you to space out, as I do. Once the water is boiling, drop the fava beans, skin-on, in the pot. After 3 minutes, take out a large fava bean (doesn't have to be the largest, but, a big one) and taste it. If its flavors are sweet and buttery, without any raw notes, it's good to go. If the bean tastes still slightly raw, give it 30-60 sec, and check another. When the beans are ready, take the pot off the stove, keep the water, but scoop out the beans from the pot, and toss the beans in an ice-bath to stop the cooking process. Bring the water back to a boil. Add the sweat peas to the pot and blanch for four to five minutes, until the pea's edible pod is still crisp, but no longer fibrous. Drain and cool.
Next, peel the favas. Use your thumb nail to break the fava skin, then pop the beans from their package. If the beans are tiny, don't worry about shedding the skin, it'll be thin and taste tender.
To a large bowl, add the chick peas, favas, and sweat peas. To this, add the white part of the green onions, parsley, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Chiffonade the mint. As is shown in photo six (above), stack about 6-10 leaves at a time, and roll them horizontally until they look like a mint cigarette. Slice with a sharp knife into thin strips. Toss 2/3 of the strips into the bowl with the chick peas. Lightly chop the rest of the mint and also add to the bowl.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the garlic, dijion, lemon juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and pepper. Pour this vinaigrette over the chick pea mixture and lightly toss. Let set for at least 20 minutes if possible. Taste. If you think it needs more salt, add.
Divide the salad between 2-3 plates. It makes two hearty lunches, or three larger side portions. Crumbling into larger chunks, top with cheese.
I love this salad with a Chenin Blanc- dry, or lightly sweet.