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Waitin’ on my fava beans

February 21, 2011 |  3:10 pm

Every morning I go out and inspect the tightly packed bed of fava beans growing in my backyard. And every day they seem to have stretched two inches taller overnight. It's still going to be a while, though. Before they can start producing those fat pods with pale green beans inside, they need to flower. And that hasn't happened yet.

Fava1 (1 of 1)

Meanwhile, I'm dreaming what I can do with them when they start coming in. Of course, I'm going to eat handfuls of the beans raw with a beautiful piece of Pecorino like they do in Rome. But fava beans can also go into a minestrone or a soupe au pistou, the southern France equivalent dosed with a swirl of pistou or pesto. In Bandol I remember peeling fava beans for a dish of the tender young beans sauteed with fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon. Wonderful on an early summer afternoon with a glass of Bandol rosé.

I just spent an hour browsing cookbooks for fava bean recipes. "The Cafe Cookbook" from River Cafe in London has one for frittedda, fava beans braised  in olive oil with quartered artichokes, fresh peas, mint and lemon. According to "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook," Judy Rodgers tosses the raw beans with olive oil, chopped mint leaves, salt, lots of black pepper -- and a squirt of lemon before folding in ribbons of thinly sliced salami and shaved Manchego or Pecorino. In "Chez Panisse Vegetables," Alice Waters proposes a ragout of fresh peas and fava beans with a little chopped basil and a chiffonade of basil or mint.  

Anybody have any other suggestions?

--S. Irene Virbila

Photo by S. Irene Virbila