When I arrived at the University Farmers Market Saturday, I saw a truncated version of our beloved market squashed to the edge of the parking lot where the vendors usually set up. It was hard not to be irritated by this intrusion caused by the University Street Fair. Many of the regulars were scowling and muttering disappointment to one another. Nothing was where it was supposed to be and several vendors didn’t come at all. I guess that’s what happens when you come with expectations. I remembered how easy it is to fall into a routine and take this incredible resource for granted.
Once I got over my frustration, I decided it would be a good opportunity to see things with “new eyes”. I stopped at Alm Hill Gardens and saw they had fava beans, something I’ve always wanted to try. I imagined myself at a market in Italy and there, I would have seen favas as a welcome sign of spring. I bought one pound — could have bought more — and started having visions of a lazy picnic with a verdant fava bean puree, my favorite croccantini from La Panzanella, an assortment of cheeses from Estrella Family Creamery and of course, a bottle of wine.
I’m sorry to say, the picnic hasn’t materialized yet but there is still time before the weekend and this glorious weather is gone. At the very least, my italian fantasy got me to make a pureed fava bean spread so I’m ready, just in case. My usual helpers went camping this weekend so I had to go it alone in the preparation. I enjoyed the process of popping the beans out of their tough pod and then removing the skin but it could be a fun group activity for those of us who like that kind of thing.
Ingredients for about 11/4 cups fava bean puree
2 lbs fava beans in the shell
2T olive oil
3 garlic cloves
2 sprigs rosemary
salt to taste
Shell the fava beans. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Blanch the shelled beans for about 1 minute, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and drop into a bowl of ice water. Drain and then remove the skin of each bean.
Mince garlic and rosemary leaves. Heat olive oil in a saute pan. Add garlic, rosemary, beans, salt and 2T water. Let the beans cook, adding more water as it cooks off. Depending on the size and age of the beans, they should be soft in about 5-10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon try mashing the beans. When they are soft, remove from the heat. Add another splash of olive oil and more salt if needed. I used a hand blender to finish the puree but you can also use the back of a spoon or a food mill.
Serve at room temperature smeared on your favorite crackers.
A version of this recipe can be found in The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters.