"What are these?" I asked the guy standing behind a long folding table covered in boxes of what looked like giant, sorty of waxy looking pea pods. "Fava beans," he explained. "They're good with liver and a nice chianti." I ignored his little joke. Poor fava beans, always destined to be linked to cannibalistic gourmand, Hannibal Lechter.
My experience with favas are sadly limited, I suppose because of their very short season. So when I spotted these fleeting springtime treats at the farmers' market I felt compelled to load up a bag. What exactly I would do with them I'd just have to figure out later.
Back at home I cracked open Sunday Suppers At Lucques. Susanne had a number of recipes that called for fava beans, but this one was the one that required the fewest other ingredients that I would have to spend the afternoon hunting down. I was supposed to go down and cook something with Annie later, and I thought this would be the perfect start to our litte meal.
extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, one sliced in half and the other minced
2 1/2 pounds fava beans in the pods
1 small sprig of rosemary
1 chile de arbol, crumbled
1/2 lemon, for juicing
1/4 cup pitted oil-cured black olives, sliced in half
1/4 cup flat leaf parsely, chopped
1/4 pound French feta
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.
First make the costini. With a serrated knife, cut the baguette into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil and arrange the slices on a baking sheet. You can toast the bread in a 374 degree oven for about 10 minutes, however we grilled them out on Annie's bar-b-que. While the toasts are warm rub them with the cut garlic.
Next, remove the fava beans from their pods. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Blanch the beans for a minute or so in the boiling water. Drain the beans in a colander, cool them in a bowl of ice water and then slip them out of their pale green shells with your fingers.
Heat a medium sautee pan over low heat. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, the rosemary sprig, and the chile. Let them sizzle in the oil for a minute or two and then stir in the minced garlic. Let it sizzle for a minute and stir in the fava beans, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Simmer the beans for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are tender (the exact time with depend on the starchiness of the favas.)
Strain the beans, reserving the oil. Discard the rosemary. Transfer the beans to a food processor and puree them. With the motor running, pour in half of the reserved oil slowly, until the puree is velvety smooth. Once the puree is smooth, poor in more of the reserved olive oil to taste. Squeeze in some lemon juice and taste for seasoning.
In a small bowl, toss the olives and parsley with a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Crumble in the feta, tossing gently to combine.
To serve, spoon the warm fava beans puree into one small bowl, and the olive, parsley, feta mixture in another bowl and then surround them both with the crostini and then to eat, spread some of the fava puree on the crostini and then spoon over some of the olive, parsley, feta mixture.
Ok, as with the last recipe I made from the Lucques cookbook, this one is all about how the flavors and textures work together. Each individual element is good, but when combined, the results are outstanding. The creamy fava bean puree tastes fresh and light while the olives and feta are rich. The French feta is a great companion to the wrinkly little oil-cured olives. The olives are salty (and the ones I bought were also slightly garliky) whereas the feta is smooth and creamy with just a little tang, and unlike the regular Greek feta, is not at all salty.
Although I'm pretty sure I bought just under two pounds of pods, once they are shelled and removed from their little skins, there are not very many of the bright green little beans. So I think that next time I do this I would double the recipe, with the exception of the cheese, which I wound up only using half of.