Thursday, April 17, 2008

A True Vegetable of Spring; Fresh Fava Beans

Ahh, fava beans, one of the last truly seasonal vegetables. Every spring their thick pods begin to overcrowd the market stands. I'm a lover of fava beans and have high anticipation every spring for their arrival. I say they are one of the last truly seasonal vegetables because you would be hard pressed to find a fresh fava outside of its spring season. Unlike foods such as watermelon, tomatoes, and asparagus, fresh favas cannot readily be found year round. But this fact is what makes them so spectacular and worth the effort. When we eat seasonally from farmer's markets we soon begin to appreciate a food for what it's really worth. If you have to wait for tomato season, or watermelon season, your going to respect and treat that food with nothing but integrity, knowing you have waited all year for the best a season has to offer. One of the greatest concepts of a seasonal farmer's market is what it can't provide; year round promises of tasteless, inferior produce.

If you have ever prepared fresh fava beans, you know they can be a bit of work. Their thick pods must first be removed to reveal the light green, kidney shaped beans inside, which then need to be quickly steamed or blanched to remove their leathery outer shell. These de-podded and de-shelled beans are what we normally consume as fresh favas. Fava beans can also be left on the vines to grow large and yellow, and then dried to be used year round. Most favas are eaten in this form, but I prefer the fresh version more. I have heard and read recipes using the pods of the fava beans, but have never found one I really enjoy. I don't like wasting food, and fresh fava beans have a waste percentage of about 80%, so I typically compost my pods, which seem to break down quite fast and add a good amount of greens to the compost pile. If the beans inside the pods are small an naturally tender, then their leathery outer shell does not need to be removed.

Since fresh fava beans take some effort to prepare and are only around for a short amount of time, I like to prepare them as simply as possible. I actually prefer to prepare most of my foods in simple ways, letting their true flavors, colors, and textures speak for themselves. I believe there is great genius in simplicty. One of the tastiest ways to prepare fresh favas is to serve them with a good bread, sheep's milk cheese, and cracked black pepper. I decided to go with this theme for my first fava preparation of the season, but switched out sheep's milk cheese for goat's (only because that is what I had on hand). I also had a bunch of beautiful red spring onions, so decided to incorporate those as well. Spring onions look sort of like overgrown scallions, with bulbs that get bigger as the season progresses. If you can't find spring onions, then use scallions instead, or even an equal amount of minced shallot. For the favas, first remove the beans from the thick pods. Drop the beans into a pot of boiling water and blanch for about 1-2 minutes if they are to be sauteed later, or until tender if being used right away. For this recipe, they will be sauteed later, so blanch quickly to avoid overcooking them. Once blanched, shock in cold water to stop the cooking process and set the color. Slip the favas out of their leathery skin and set aside. Now they are ready to use. You will need about 1 1/2 pounds of fresh favas in their pods to get 1 cup of ready to use beans.

Fava Bean, Spring Onion, and Goat's Cheese Crostini

-8-10 slices whole grain baguette or other sturdy, crusty bread
-4 large cloves garlic, papery skin still on
-4 oz chevre style goat's cheese at room temperature
-1/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
-2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 cup shelled and peeled fresh fava beans
-3 small spring onions, bulbs and 1 inch of green top, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
-salt and fresh ground black pepper
-fresh chopped parsely

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush each slice of whole grain bread with a small amount of olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until slightly browned on the edges and crunchy, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. These toasts can be done up to a day in advance. While the toasts are baking, wrap the whole garlic cloves up in a small piece of foil and bake until very soft, about 20 minutes. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins, chop fine, and set aside.

Lightly mash the goat's cheese with a fork in a bowl. Mix in the roasted garlic, minced rosemary, and a little salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a medium sized saute pan, heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add in the fava beans and sliced spring onions. Season with salt and a little ground black pepper (don't overdo the pepper!). Stir often, adjusting the heat as neccessary to avoiding burning, until the onions have wilted and fava beans are just tender, about 5 minutes. Add a splash of water or vegetable stock, about 1-2 tablespoons, and stir to mix. This gives a little moisture to the mix, which may be quite dry. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the fresh chopped parsely.

Spread each toast with some of the goat's cheese spread, top generously with the sauteed fava beans, and a little more fresh chopped parsely if desired. Great with a salad of seasonal greens and fennel, and maybe even a poached egg.


Anonymous said...

hi Cory the site looks great! i hope everything is going good with the pregnancy. oh and you guys should move back here!

your soon to be sister in-law

Yvette Acord said...

I tried your fava bean recipe today and it was delicious! I had to substitute tofutti cream cheese as dairy doesn't agree with me. Since it doesn't have the tang of goat cheese I added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the favas. Your blog is terrific! I look forward to your cookbook. Keep up the great work!

Tracie N. said...

I was wondering if I would find a recipe with fava beans! I was excited to see them at Farmer's Market last time I was there. I can't wait to try this recipe as it sounds delicious!