Fava love may not equal our devotion to tomatoes or strawberries, but they’re in the running, for their flavor and remarkable bright green stature, and even for the intent required to prepare them.
This is slow food. Prepare to be nurtured – it will take time, more than we’ve become accustomed to. Shelling and peeling two pounds of favas might take one person 45 -60 minutes, with help much less than that. Kids can do this and they love it.
You may know we have this cookbook giveaway going on – June 24th – July 1st (details at end of post). In that cookbook, Pure Flavor, there’s a recipe for Green Bean Pesto that’s local, bright green, simple and undoubtedly delicious. Green beans, pumpkin seeds, garlic and oil, what’s not to like? Sounds like a handy alternative to fava spread when green beans are in season.
Favas’ glory won’t last long, overshadowed by tomatoes which are showing promise. Ripening to shades of crimson, gold and purple, they’ll hog the limelight starting in a few weeks. I know it’s partly my fault, as the adult in the garden I could promote equity and fairness toward all plant life. Or not. Guilty of gross nepotism in the vegetable garden, tomatoes are the favored child, can do no wrong, and will have my attention and undying love above all other veggies for all time. Greens are in the game, but dang, they’re just not a tomato. Technically speaking, tomatoes are not a vegetable, they’re a fruit, but that’s a distinction few of us acknowledge with any fervor.
That said, for the moment favas have the stage. We’ve eaten them marinated with fish, plain with salt & pepper and Pecorino cheese, tossed them in salad, and with proscuitto & pasta (Fava Gala). I made a fava salad with mint, and I thought there must be something like a fava hummus for spreading on crackers and bread. I looked around and though I didn’t find it specifically, I found several bean spread recipes. The following recipe was inspired by and is a compilation of those. It’s like guacamole and just as much a party animal in its own way, perfect with crostini, pita bread, crackers, chips or veggies.
Plus it’s drop dead gorgeous.
It comes together quickly once you’ve prepped the favas. To be fair, their preparation will be considered a pain by some, a meditative journey by others. I chose the latter viewpoint and had a good time.
A Fava Bean Spread (a lot like hummus)
(3 – 4 # of unshelled favas will yield 6 or 8 cups of beans, enough for several different recipe experiences.)
Remove favas from the pod and then remove their outer skin by blanching quickly, about 2 minutes in simmering water and plunging straight into cold or ice water/ Then remove outer skins by squeezing lightly, causing the ‘inner’ bean to pop out/ Repeat this times 150 or so until you have 3 or 4 cups worth/ It’s meditation/ Using fresh beans, I found that no further cooking was necessary after blanching. However, if they’re dried, or somewhat dried, they will need additional cooking, probably 6-8 minutes. (Note: If favas are blanched too long beans can become soft and difficult to remove efficiently from their skin.)
OK, now it comes together quickly. Place 2 C cooked & peeled favas in food processor or blender along with 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1/4 C each cilantro and parsley, 2 T each dill and mint, 1/4 C lemon juice, 4 – 5 T olive oil, plus a smidge of anything else that sounds appealing. Eliminate anything you don’t like or don’t have on hand – it’ll still be delish. Blend vigorously until everything’s chopped and well blended. I added a couple of tablespoons of water to achieve a smooth, spreadable consistency. Drizzle with more olive oil before serving along with chopped mint and parsley. Spread it on anything, especially pita bread and tortilla chips. It’s good.
In my imagination I picture the family together shelling favas and squeezing the blanched beans out of their skins, whipping up the fava spread, everyone smacking their lips and having a good time. It’s all tranquil and satisfying. You’re thinking, hello, earth to Sally . . . I know, we don’t do much of this slow cooking anymore, but a person can dream.
Or, use shelled favas and make this salad, a recipe straight out of Gourmet, very Italian. They love their favas. I’m in awe of a recipe so simple and elegant. Three basic ingredients: favas, mint and red onion (some olive oil & salt).
Fave con Cipolla Rossa e Menta (favas with red onion & mint)
Ursula Ferrigno, Gourmet, April 2008.
Favas, blanched, peeled and cooked, if necessary, until just tender
Amounts can vary according to taste. Just 1 cup of favas is enough to make four small but flavorful servings. Combine cooked fava beans and finely sliced red onion, as much or as little as desired. Add remaining ingredients, including a generous handful of chopped mint, toss gently and serve.
A simple beauty. I’m taking this to a dinner party this weekend and may ask friends to help prep the favas, a memorable ten minutes or so of culinary togetherness. Or maybe my sentimentality has run amok again. Just an idea. Either way, it’s easy after the favas are prepped and it’s definitely party fare.
At the peak of their season, favas are available at farmers markets right now. They dry best in their shells on the vine, which may not be much longer in our garden – we need that spot for peppers, eggplant and basil, and soon thereafter for winter vegetable starts (Yikes, I hate to even say that. Sorry.)
Independence Day giveaway continues . . . Kurt Beecher Dammeier’s book, Pure Flavor: 125 All-American Recipes from the Pacific Northwest. From June 24th – July 1st all comments made during that time go into a hat and we’ll have a drawing for the cookbooks on July 3rd.
Blogs are a strange creature. We’re all anonymous, yet connected – sitting around the kitchen table together thinking about sustainability and food. It’s wonderful hearing from many of you and knowing that you’re out there.