My garden is a little behind from last May. The weather has been unusual for California this year, with lots of rain and cold. We have planted all the tomatoes, eggplant and romano beans, but have not planted our peppers yet. Fresh peas are still on the vines because they were late coming out this year.
And of course we have been picking lots of fava beans on a daily basis.
Eating fava beans every day prompted me to write about them. We plant the variety of beans that we brought over from Calabria. The bean pods are very long compared to the ones that you find here at the farmers' market. Typically fava bean pods are about six inches long with 5 or 6 beans inside, but our variety is 10 to 12 inches long with 8 to 10 beans inside the pod. Each plant produces lots of pods.
Here are the beans inside the pod.
The beans themselves have an outer skin that most people here in the United States always remove, making for lots more work. Calabrians usually leave them on when making pasta or minestra with fava beans but I do remove them for certain dishes. The recipe for a fava bean "spread" that I will show you is one of these. You can put it on top of bruschetta or serve it with grilled fish, toss it with pasta, or fold it into a risotto. It is so easy to make that you can just follow the photos below to make it at home.
To make enough for six people you will need about four pounds of fava bean pods. Shuck the beans from the pods, blanch the beans in boiling water for about a minute, put them in cold water to stop cooking, drain them and then remove the outer skin. Place them in a skillet with a good amount of olive oil, three cloves of minced garlic and a sprig of fresh thyme. Cook until soft for about 20 minutes, adding a little water if dry. Remove the thyme sprig and mash with a potato masher. Add some lemon juice to taste. If the puree is still dry add some good extra virgin olive oil at the end.
While it is still warm spread it on top of bruschetta and top it with some shavings of ricotta salata or pecorino.
The next time you go to the farmers' market grab the fava beans because their season is short. Look for bright fresh pods. If they are wrinkly or brown don't buy them. And remember to buy lots of pods. Five pounds of pods give you only about 2 pounds of shelled beans.
P.S. Here is a formal portrait of my chickens. They have finally lost their fear of open spaces and have become proper country chicks. This photo was as hard to take as one of kindergarten children (they just wont stand still). I managed to corral all four of them in one corner of the yard. They love being outside and eating greens. Can't wait for that first egg!
Bruschetta con Fave Fresche (Bruschetta topped with fresh fava bean spread)
4 pounds fava beans
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
One small sprig rosemary
One small sprig thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of one lemon
Six slices of grilled country-style bread
1. Shell the fava beans and discard the pods.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the shelled fava beans. Cook the beans for about one minute. Drain and place in a bowl of ice-cold water, to cool. Drain them again. Using your thumbnail, break the outer green skin and squeeze the pod between your thumb and forefinger - the bright green bean inside will pop right out. Discard the tough, outer skin.
3. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a medium size skillet. Add the fava beans, garlic, rosemary and thyme sprigs, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of water.
4. Cook over low heat until the fava beans are soft and absorb the flavors of the garlic and herbs, about 20 minutes. Add more water if the beans are drying out. Remove from the heat. Remove the herb sprigs and mash the mixture to a coarse puree or use a food processor and briefly process the mixture, if you prefer a smooth paste. Taste for salt and pepper. Add more olive oil and the lemon juice to taste. If the mixture seems dry, add more olive oil.
5. Spread the bean mixture on the grilled bruschetta. You can finish the bruschetta with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil and topped with some shaved, fresh pecorino cheese or ricotta salata if you like.
Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.