I made this salad earlier in the season while my garden still had blooming chives and violas. Using viola flowers in our dinners gives everyone a chance to really appreciate these little gems, and I had the cutest violas this year!
Back at Adult Nationals I first saw the speckled and striped viola variety ‘Columbine’ for sale outside the Whole Foods in Salt Lake City. Once I was home I found ‘Columbine’ and the similarly flecked ‘Tie Die’ locally as well as some other cuties for my garden (that I used for this salad). I used chive flowers too, which are not only pretty but have the same mild onion flavor as the rest of the chive plant.
Fresh fava beans are something I buy once or twice every spring. When there’s not much new local produce I see the heap of oversized, fuzzy fava bean pods at the co-op or farmer’s market, and get them despite the fact that they take a fair amount of time in the kitchen to shell. They are a pretty spring green and a nice change from the chickpeas that I’m more likely to toss on my salad the rest of the year.
Not only do favas need shelling but the beans themselves have a membrane that slips off to leave just the tender, inner bean. I’ve learned to deal with these better lately. After shelling and steaming the beans, I let them cool completely before popping them out from the membrane. That gives the cooked bean a chance to solidify so it doesn’t mush when I pop the membrane off. Perhaps next year I will try this method of preparing favas from the Kitchn– it may be a little better.
I know, I’m not selling the fava beans that hard. But perhaps they will show up in your farm share (or you will be curious about them at the farmer’s market) and you’ll need to figure out how to cook them.
For this salad I prefer yellow cherry tomatoes to harmonize with the purple flowers. If you find ‘Sungold’ yellow cherry tomatoes at the farmer’s market (or if you grow them) you can use them here. They are very sweet and one of my favorites.
- 1# unshelled fava beans (5 oz. shelled)
- 20 oz asparagus (2 bu.)
- 6 oz. lettuce or salad greens, washed
- 7 oz. yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
- about a dozen viola flowers, washed
- about a dozen chive flowers, washed
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- small piece of shallot, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop garlic and shallot, add to other ingredients.
- If you have time to let the dressing set for a few hours the garlic and shallot will infuse the oil with their flavor. If you don't have time, the dressing will still be good.
- Whisk dressing to combine the oil and vinegar just before adding to salad.
- I used a vegetable steamer basket inserted into a larger pot filled with a few inches of water for the fava beans.
- Shell fava beans, steam for several minutes until tender. Let cool. Slip membrane off of each bean.
- A steamer basket can also work for the asparagus (or grilling or broiling). I happen to have a tall, thin asparagus steamer pot and used that.
- Steam asparagus until tender but still firm, about 7 minutes for thick stalks and 4-5 for thin stalks.
- Cool, chop into segments.
- Put favas and asparagus into a medium bowl.
- Cut cherry tomatoes in halves.
- Wash, spin, shred lettuce (if not using prepared salad greens).
- Add a little salad dressing to the bowl of favas and asparagus and mix.
- Put the salad greens in a large bowl and toss with the remainder of the salad dressing.
- Arrange the salad greens on dinner plates.
- Top with the asparagus and favas, the cherry tomatoes, and finally the viola and chive flowers.