Fava fava fava
There are certain things -- odd kitchen implements or ingredients -- that I tend to pick up by a kind of culinary reflex, bring home and then don't use. This is because I don't know what to do with them, or I haven't found the right recipe -- or the other ingredients for the recipe I do have. Copper canelé tins, smoked black cardamom pods, mulberry molasses, a blissful Mason jar of prunes that have been soaking in Armagnac for upward of two years. (That's going to be fun.) And dried fava beans. Lots of dried fava beans.
I have a bag of them that I picked up at a farmers market here last year, another that I brought back from a market in Seattle, and yet another bag that I found at a tiny corner grocery store in Paris' 4th arrondissement, two doors up from Eric Kayser's bakery in the Latin Quarter. I brought them back, but hadn't found any recipe that called for them. But then, a few weeks ago, Martha Rose Shulman's new cookbook, "Mediterranean Harvest," appeared on my desk. It's a terrific book, containing over 500 recipes from Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East. So far I've started curing olives using her method, and have already put up about 10 pounds of preserved lemons. (She's got a great Sauces and Condiments section.) And then, on Page 309, I found a recipe that called for dried favas.
Shulman's recipe is simple: The favas are just simmered in salted water until mushy, then allowed to rest before you add a generous pour of olive oil. Shulman says the warm purée, served with greens cooked with garlic (you can stir them into the purée), is a signature dish of Puglia. If I'd known that (and how easy it all was), I'd have picked up even more bags of dried favas than I did.
"Mediterranean Harvest," by Martha Rose Shulman, $39.95 (Rodale Trade Books, 2007)
-- Amy Scattergood
Photo by Amy Scattergood