I discovered fava beans this past spring! Who knew they existed? I was searching through my Rancho la Puerta and Golden Door spa cookbooks for spring recipes last March, as the gloomy winter rain in Eugene turned into the somewhat less gloomy spring rain. I selected a recipe from The Golden Door Cooks Light and Easy that happened to be pictured on the cover: Poached Chicken Breast with Spring Fava Beans (p. 86).
Knowing nothing about fava beans, I thought I’d take a short cut and use canned beans. However, the picture showed a beautiful green bean and the can showed something beige. Discarding that plan, I searched in local markets for fava beans and found them at Capella Market, which features organic produce. Hurray! Here were these large, slightly fuzzy pods, 6 – 10 inches long with 4 – 5 large beans inside. I filled a bag with what I was sure was an abundance of beans.
The recipe described how to prepare them and I also searched for corroboration online. The steps are easy, but take some time. First, open the pods and remove the large light-green beans. These are the outer beans. Fill a sauce pan with water and bring it to a boil. While you are waiting, prepare a bowl of ice water. You’ll need this to immerse your beans into to stop them from cooking too much. When the water on the stove reaches boiling, add the beans and cook for 1 – 2 minutes only. If you overcook them, the inner beans will tend to split and it think get overly dried out. So, quick to cook, then drain and plunge into the ice water. Now you get the fun part: releasing the inner bean! Use your thumbnails to put a small slice in the edge of the bean and squeeze out the bright green inner bean! Don’t try to do any of this if you are feeling rushed. Rather, give yourself the time to enjoy the entire Zen process.
I loved the voyage of discovery to release the fava’s inner bean––so beautiful and bright! This was the color of spring! I was surprised, though, when my big bag of beans only produced about 1/2 cup of inner beans! Nonetheless, I had plenty for my poached chicken recipe. It turned out great and I’ve made this colorful dish several times.
Now, in July, I found fava beans at Eugene’s Saturday Market. I bought a soccer-ball sized bag of beans and finally prepped them yesterday. This time, I got a little over 1 cup of beans. I used them to make two different purees!
I have been piling up inspirations for what to do with the beans. First I found a recipe in La Tartine Gourmande: Tartine with fava beans, poppy seed goat cheese, and lemon vinaigrette (p. 83). The tartine also has thinly sliced orange bell pepper, and a garnish of shaved pecorino and fresh mint leaves.
Earlier this week I met a friend for drinks and conversation at Le Bar, the bistro side of Marche, Eugene’s most French restaurant. On the bar menu was tartine with pureed fava beans and basil! So I decided to modify the LTG tartine to puree the fava been and goat cheese topping. And while I was at it, I searched online and found another puree option: on a blog called Cucina Girl, I found Fava Bean Crostini, that called for a puree of fava beans, garlic, fresh mint, lemon zest and juice. I added olive oil to help the beans soften up.
I sliced some of the country-style artisan bread on hand, misted them with olive oil, and toasted a few slices under the broiler. For the LTG version, I spread my fava-goat-cheese-milk mixture, topped it with the sliced orange bell peppers and pecorino shavings, topped with a couple of mint leaves. The taste was light, with the peppers providing a colorful and sweet contrast to the bean puree. The Cucina Girl version had more garlic and lemon, combining for a zesty and flavorful topping. Both versions were a lovely pale green. I’d call both a success! The experience made me wonder what else I could do with this beautiful legume? Fava bean sorbet?