I will probably lose some foodie cred for this, but up until quite recently, I had never cooked with fava beans. I'm not sure that I had even tasted them. Part of what put me off, and I think I'm not alone in this, is the work involved: first the shelling, then the blanching, then the peeling. Or the peeling sans blanching, which I'm told is more difficult. As there are plenty of other delicious green veggies in the garden, especially in springtime, I've cruised along year after year without giving fava beans much thought.
This year was different: I got fava pods in my CSA box, which made them impossible to ignore. Fortunately for us fava bean novices, they started us off gently with baby fava pods. Fun fava fact: the young ones, no thicker than your finger, can be eaten pods and all just like string beans. They're surprisingly good cut into pieces and sauteed in some butter with a bit of salt and pepper, with a deeper, richer flavor than that of string beans. And so my introduction to fava beans was an easy one.
But young things grow up, even fava beans, and before long the pods had gotten too big to be eaten. It was time to shell and peel. Thanks to a nudge from Smitten Kitchen, peeled favas and I got off to a good start with this recipe from Bon Appetit. It was good, and definitely something I'll make again, but the favas' flavor didn't exactly play a starring role. I wanted to make something that really centered on the beans themselves and showcased their brilliant color, which I think is perfect for springtime.
I didn't expect to find that recipe in a parenting magazine, but there it was on Epicurious, exactly what I was looking for: something quick and easy for a weeknight (as quick and easy as favas ever are), and something in which the beans are front and center. But, a parenting magazine? Really? Not that good recipes can't come from parenting magazines, but fava beans? There are plenty of fresh vegetables that I can imagine preparing for a toddler. Fava beans are not among them. I have this mental image of a harried parent working furiously to peel the beans while a tired, hungry, and therefore cranky child does tired, hungry, and cranky child things.
If I ever have kids, and if they ever read this: kids, if I never make fava bean mash for you, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I love you enough to want you to have a sane mother.
And yes, you read that correctly, this is a recipe for fava bean mash. Wrinkling your nose? I suppose I don't blame you, but I'm actually a big fan of mashed or pureed beans. Refried beans, pureed black bean soup, garlicky white bean puree on toast, and so on. This recipe is in the same vein. And as with many other bean dishes, this one starts out with some bits of cured pork (pancetta, in this case) for flavor.
Some good, crusty bread--toasted, brushed with oil, and rubbed with fresh garlic--provides a nice vehicle and a bit of crunch to offset the mushiness. I think it's a great recipe if you need a relatively easy hors d'oeuvre for a get-together; but if you're in a simple mood, as I was this evening, it's also a fine, satisfying meal by itself. And I like the idea of appropriating a recipe intended for kids as a pleasant, even comforting meal for adults. Get some water boiling and have a colander at the ready, and follow me below for the recipe.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009