Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Overlooked Farmer's Market Bounty #1

There are piles of fava beans at the market beginning sometime in June all the way through the summer. They look so invitingly green and healthy. I've seen them for years and never taken them home - what would I do with them? Isn't there a lot of shelling and peeling involved? Yes, there is, but I've since learned that it's totally worth it. I only wish I had written this a few weeks ago when the beans were still young enough that you could eat them raw. You'll have to wait until next year for that.

I've used favas in vegetable soups and they're toothsome and savory. Lately I've been puréeing them with great results, and you can season and serve this purée however you want. Here is the basic technique, as adapted from The Art of Simple Food, the excellent cookbook by Alice Waters:

1) Get the beans out of the pod. This is more fun if someone helps you. I would pair this activity with a nice Crémant du Jura, or maybe a crisp glass of Chablis.2) Remove the outer skin from each fava bean. I'm not going to dance around the truth here pal - this is a total pain in the @$$. The bean skins are edible, and for soup I wouldn't bother with this step. But for purée, there's no way around it. It's quite satisfying to see the incredibly green shiny beans pile up in your bowl. If that sight alone doesn't work for you then remember what Principal Skinner once recommended for getting through a similarly mind numbing task: "See how many you can do in 10 minutes and then try to break that record." A pairing for this activity? I recommend something simple, yet restorative. Maybe open one of those 2002 Bourgognes you've been saving?3) Cook the skinned beans until they are easy to mush. You can cook the beans in olive oil and other seasonings, but that doesn't make sense to me, as good olive oil doesn't like to be heated up. I simply cook the beans in canola oil and a little salt, and add good olive oil to the purée. This is quick - somewhere between 5-10 minutes. You'll need something pungent while doing this, like a cold New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
4) Season the beans with salt. You can add whatever fresh herbs you like here. I think mint or marjoram work perfectly, thyme is good too. A small amount of garlic and/or onion is also good, but cook them with the beans, I wouldn't add them raw. I don't like the way this turns out using a blender and I still don't have a food processor, so I use the same food mill that I used for BrooklynBabyGirl's food. Works like a charm. Combine the purée of beans and herbs with your best extra-virgin olive oil until you get the texture you want. If you can drink wine while doing this, then you're some sort of Hindu deity. You can serve this purée as hors d'oeuvre by spreading a thin layer on crisp bread. After trying several breads, my favorite is a toasted slice of baguette. The flavor of the puree is green and mellow but also nutty and savory. Something bright is good with this hors d'oeuvre, like a squirt of lemon. Even better is pickled red onion. I stumbled on a great wine pairing for this dish: dry Sherry. The nutty saline oxidized flavors of the cold sherry work perfectly with the green-earthy and nutty beans. We recently ate these with a bottle of N.V. Bodegas Hidalgo Manzanilla La Gitana, $10 (500 ml) and people were using their fingernails to scrape their plates, licking the insides of their wine glasses. If you want to try something new and completely delicious, serve this purée with skirt steak. It works, just trust me this one time. The two types of savory really complement each other. Again, something bright and acidic is important here, or else it's savory piled on savory with no lift. I heartily recommend the same pickled red onions. Or, you could bust out your Fleur de sel or other fine sea salt here. A lighter style of red works great with this dish, something snappy. Try a good Beaujolais or a Loire Cheverny. We went with the 2006 Coudert Fleurie Clos de la Roilette, $21, and beautiful music was made that night, friends. Once you make the puree, I'm sure you'll come up with your own interesting ways of serving it. I'm telling you, work your way past the peeling because this stuff is beautiful - it's completely healthy, it's versatile, it's delicious, it gets better with a day or two in the fridge, and you'll be the only one in your group of friends making it. Unless your group includes an Egyptian. At their house you might be served foul medames, a delicious version of this dish made with cumin, tomatoes, and onions. But I have no idea how to make that dish.

10 comments:

Jack said...

Funny, in Northern California, fava beans are an April/May food. They grow extremely well in our garden, as we learned three years ago when we had twice as many as we could eat.

Also, we remove them from the pods, cook them, and then peel them (which is a lot easier then). A lot of tedious peeling, esp. when you make enough for five, as we often do.

Your recipe looks good!

Steve L. said...

I echo Jack--drop the de-podded beans in boiling water for about a minute, refresh, and the beans will pop right out of their skins. Then you can cook or use them the way you want.

Saltpepperlime said...

Those beans sure look good.
In the spring time in Rome, they eat them raw with only pecorino cheese grated on to them. Yum!

Brooklynguy said...

jack and steve - thanks for pointing this out. i somehow did not include this step in the post - i drop 'em in boiling water for a minute also. no other way to get the skins of, really. i still think it's a pain!

hey saltpepperlime - welcome to the site. that sounds SO good. the sheepiness of the cheese, the nutty beans. i must have that. next june...

Mike Drapkin said...

Thats funny because I have been staring at those bright green fava beans at the Union Square greenmarket for weeks now and not knowing what to do with them. But they look so delicious!! Thanks for the great post and recipes. I will share with you the results after i pick up a bunch this weekend. Cheers!!

JBH said...

I've always preferred them whole, poached quickly in chicken stock and finished with butter, salt, and herbs. So so chewy. This puree sounds excellent, though--especially backing up some grilled meat. Just make sure you don't serve them to anyone with favism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Favism

Andrzej Daszkiewicz said...

In Poland we often just cook them for a few minutes in salted water and then peel them straight into mouth. The bowl of cooked fava beans is one of my family's favourite light early summer lunches. And you can make a nice risotto using them as one of the ingredients.

michelecolline said...

In some areas of Italy 'fava' is an 'undesirable' word. Around here they call them 'baccelli'. Can't go wrong with that word.

Brooklynguy said...

mike - i'm waiting....let us know with a link to your site?

hey jbh - yes, favism is bad news indeed, very dangerous. i deal with this by not allowing anyone with favism into my apartment. in that way you could say i am a favist.

andrzej - thank you for this comment, and for traveling here all the way from Poland. I've read that these beans make a great snack, but I always read about drying and salting them, like in China. This sounds great too.

hi michelecolline - appreciate this comment. funny how words can lose their impact over time and across cultures and then we forget that they once had a negative connotation.

by the way, aren't you supposed to be out there thinning your crop, preparing for harvest, things like that? nice to see you here.

Mike Drapkin said...

They turned out great!! Though I didn't post the meal..... However, my guests praised the dish and went home smiling. Mission accomplished! The only thing I did differently was paring the task of getting the peas out with a Montlouis Petillant.....i didn't have the Cremant de Jura in the pantry. Ha! Cheers and thanks again for the great recipe.

www.theschist.com