You might think he's doing something else. But in reality, he's learning how to sit/stay, and not doing a very good job of it (he eventually learned how to do so beautifully ... sort of ).

martedì 15 giugno 2010

Peeling Beans

One glorious sunny Sunday not too long ago, the Italian Scallion and I decided to pick all our fava beans. We’d left it a day or two or three too long: their shells were a semi-bleached white, and a little gummy. You didn’t want to eat them raw. Nope, cooking them was what was called for.

We had half of them in Sunday’s lunch, stewed in pancetta, new garlic, and olive oil (a riff on River Café’s wonderful recipe found in Green). The rest were going to be podded and peeled.
What remained was 1 kilo and 700 grams -- a little over three pounds. Fortunately, Jamie Magnificent was visiting, and she’d stopped biting her nails, so she was in the mood to help out (having nails is essential in this process).

Jamie wondered why Americans don’t seem to eat much fava, and concluded that preparing them was simply too much work. ( has a lot of tasty fava bean recipes; many years ago David Bouley wrote a marvelous recipe that appeared in the New York Times; he suggested cooking the beans, with their shells, then peeling them and mixing them up with honey and lime; divine.[1] And at the time that recipe appeared, it seemed very much an exotic thing.) The penultimate edition of the Joy of Cooking has but one recipe for fava beans, and that using its dried incarnation. “Dried fava beans present many obstacles … and they are indigestible to some people, particularly those of Mediterranean background, who carry a genetic sensitivity to the toxicity of the undercooked bean and the plant’s pollen.”[2]

Italians must be exempt from this toxicity. When it’s fava season (in spring, and pretty much over by now), markets teem with them. Italians eat them raw (you're supposed to eat them on Pasquetta, Easter Monday, out in the country with loved ones), they cook them.[3] If you’re assiduous (we aren’t), you can plant them here in November or December for a most early spring crop. This year we will try to remember to do so.

But the Joy of Cooking is right in one respect: even the fresh fava bean presents many obstacles. Jamie and I peeled the beans one morning, and it took a good long while. Those three pounds plus of fava, once shorn of their multitudinous protective coverings, were reduced to 350 grams … roughly, ¾ of a pound

They went directly into a pan filled with vegetable broth.

Fava bean purée

3 lbs. fava beans, podded and peeled
½ c. vegetable broth
1 T. coriander seeds, lightly toasted, then mortar’d and pestle’d
¼ c. sesame seeds, just like the coriander
1 T. cumin seeds, ibid.
2-3 T. extravirgin olive oil
Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Place the beans in a saucepan with the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, lower the flame, and cook ‘til just done (a couple of minutes). Put them in a blender with all the other ingredients, and whizz ‘til a purée which still retains a wee bit of chunkiness.

Put into a white bowl, garnish with fresh mint leaves, and serve with crackers or toasted bread. Or toast some Tuscan bread, spread with the beans, and top with a thin slice of semi-aged Pecorino. Or toast the Tuscan bread by slapping a thin slice of semi-aged Pecorino, running it under the broiler, then topping with a dollop of dip.

Makes about 1 cup. Yeah, that’s all.

For those of you who like well-written pieces about food, check out Tom McAllister’s “The Perfect Cheesesteak” at Fingers crossed that he continues along this path.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Magnificent

[1] It appeared sometime in the 1980s, and is also included in The New York Times Jewish Cookbook: More than 825 Traditional and Contemporary Recipes from around the World, New York, 2002.
[2] The Joy of Cooking, New York, 1997.
[3] Puglia has a delicious wintry dish: mashed dried fava beans with cooked bitter greens.

1 commento:

  1. This from Mistress of the Perfectly-Executed Roast (aka Queen of Kansas)(do know that she's also a top-notch Renaissance art historian): I would add to the discussion that one of the reasons they aren't embraced in the States is that they simply aren't widely available. I see recipes for them all the time, but nary a fava crosses my path. I guess it's a cultural thing. I suppose they are probably easier to find in more populous parts of the country.