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Like fava beans? Try fava greens in dishes such as pasta shells


Young fava bean plants can be harvested to use like spinach. They have the flavor of fava beans without the work. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Recipe: Leaves taste great, need a lot less work



Fava beans are a winter favorite in Northern California. Many gardeners I know plant them with no intention of eating the results; they use favas as a cover crop to keep down weeds and replenish the soil's nutrients. They treat favas like fancy alfalfa.

They're missing out -- twice. Planted now, this interesting vegetable actually offers two crops: The flavorful beans and the lesser-known greens.

With a delicate flavor all their own, the leaves of young fava plants cook just like spinach -- quickly. Also like spinach, it takes a lot of fava leaves to yield a cooked serving.
Freshly washed fava greens

Chefs use fava greens to add green color and distinct fava flavor to pastas and other dishes.
The greens also are used to stretch the impact of fava beans in a finished dish.

Fava beans are time-consuming to prepare;
they need to be shelled twice. Fava greens offer
some of that fava flavor with a lot less effort:
Just remove the tough stems and wash.

Another plus for fava greens: They can be harvested four weeks after planting. When thinning rows of fava beans, keep the extras to use as greens.

Baked fava green-stuffed shells
Makes 3 to 4 servings

Baked stuffed shells make a delicious vegetarian dinner.
Ingredients:
12 jumbo pasta shells
4 cups fresh fava greens, stemmed and washed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 cremini or white mushrooms, washed and
sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 cups mozzarella cheese, finely shredded (divided)
1/2 cup Romano cheese, grated
1 egg
Non-stick cooking spray
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or oil an 8-inch baking dish.

Sauté the fava greens until wilted.
Prepare pasta shells according to package directions until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Remove tough stems from fava greens. Make sure leaves are well washed.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté onions and mushrooms until onions are transparent. Transfer sautéed onions and mushrooms to food processor and pulse a few times.

Return the pan to the stove and add the other tablespoon of oil. Over medium heat, stir in the fava greens by handfuls; stir-fry until wilted.

Add cooked fava greens to the food processor and pulse lightly until mushroom-green mixture is chopped.

In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, Romano and 1 cup mozzarella cheeses. Beat egg and add to cheeses. Fold in mushroom-green mixture.

Stuff each cooked shell with about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the mushroom-green-cheese mixture. Arrange the stuffed shells in the prepared baking dish.

Make sauce. In a pan, gradually heat diced tomatoes. Stir in wine. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The stuffed shells bake for 45 minutes.
Spoon the sauce over the stuffed shells. Top with remaining shredded mozzarella.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until done. Cover with foil if cheese topping starts to become too brown.

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RECIPE

A recipe for preparing delicious meals from the bounty of the garden.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 19:

Spring will start a bit soggy, but there’s still plenty to do between showers:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Watch out for aphids. Wash off plants with strong blast from the hose.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to fight blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees as they start to blossom.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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