quinoa herb salad with brown butter and sage fava beans

I could live contentedly eating fruit, berries and herbs. Its a toss up which I like best. If you have been following my posts you know that my urban garden is my haven in the city – not only for the greenery it supplies but also its splendor. There truly is nothing more satisfying then eating something you have grown.

Fruit and berries have a more elusive appeal. They are only in season for a few short weeks and because my urban garden won’t accommodate fruit trees or berries I have to rely on the harvest at my local farmers market. There is something about “that which you cannot have (or have in abundance)” which makes you love it more.

This week’s post is dedicated to my herb garden. And, this year has been epic! Basil, thyme, sage, parsley, mint, vietnamese coriander, pineapple sage, lavender, rosemary, chives, chervil, and lemon balm — they are all loving the summer heat and I’m so pleased that the vermin  that have ravaged my vegetables don’t seem to have a taste for my herbs.


This quinoa herb salad is amazing year round. In the winter I tend to make it with only a few varieties of herb. Its a great way to use up big bunches that I have bought for other dishes. In the summer it is a taste explosion as I take advantage of the bounty my home garden offers. The fava beans are a seasonal treat that I only just discovered. There is no going back! The two parts of this dish are wonderful on their own. When they are paired together they make a light and satisfying dinner.

Yields 4 servings

Quinoa Herb Salad
There are classic spice combinations that will absolutely work. My rule of thumb is slightly less precise…

In the court of herbs
Basil and thyme are King and Queen – they rule the kingdom and should be used in abundance.
Mint is the court jester – fun and playful but it can easily take over the party.
(Vietnamese) cilantro and lavender are the Dames who will capture everyones attention with their looks and sweet smell but too much of a good thing (you get the picture).
All the rest hold equal standing. Use what you have in equal amounts

1 cup un-cooked quinoa
1 cup mixed herbs
Juice of 1 lemon (approximately 2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup good quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
60 grams of parmesan grated (crumbled feta is also lovely but I prefer parmesan to pair with the fava bean recipe)
Salt and pepper to taste

Method
Soak the quinoa for about 30 minutes in cold water. Rinse well and place in a medium pot with a little less than 2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce heat right away, cover the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes. The quinoa should be fluffy when finished. The salad will not work if the quinoa is mushy.
If you need some help with your quinoa check here for a very in-depth explanation and tips.
While the quinoa is cooking finely chop your herbs, grate your cheese, and combine the lemon juice and oil.
Allow the quinoa to cool completely and mix in the herbs.
Add the cheese, small amounts at a time so it combines without clumping.
Finally mix in the oil and lemon.
The salad will last a couple of days in the fridge. I always make extra for a quick lunch, adding a little extra lemon juice and oil to refresh.

Brown Butter and Sage Fava Beans
Brown butter and sage is a classic sauce that can be served in a number of ways including tossed with pasta or over fish. I first discovered it at a restaurant that I worked at several years ago. The chef served it with ricotta gnocchi. Heavenly!

The first couple of times I made brown butter I found that getting the heat setting right was a quite finicky. There is a very fine line between brown butter and burnt butter and you definitely don’t want the later. The best advise I can give is to keep an attentive eye and quick hands. And, don’t worry if some burnt butter is donated to the garbage bin. It is very fast and easy to start again.

2 cups shelled fava beans
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 sage leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
60 grams of parmesan grated

Method
To begin, blanche the shelled fava beans for 2 minutes in a pot of boiling water and place in a bath of ice cold water immediately.
Remove the skin by piercing it at one end with your fingers and popping out the lovely green niblets (I love this process!).
Set your pan to med-high.
Melt the butter and stir continuously until the edges start to brown and the butter has a slightly nutty aroma.
As soon as the butter begins to brown add the sage leaves and lemon juice.
Remove from the heat and add the fava beans turning until they are coated.
Place the beans in a bowl and toss with the parmesan and lemon zest.

Serve the salad on individual plates or a platter and place the beans in the centre. Ideally you will have slightly less of the beans than the quinoa.

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