A spring favorite

As promised, here is a taste of what I've been up to and what I hope to continue over the summer—getting inspired by seasonal ingredients and discovering new ways of bringing them to life. This one is something I worked on earlier this spring:

I love the idea of fresh fava beans. They aren't around for long this time of year, so I cherish their nutty flavor and smooth texture. The only problem is there never seems to be enough of them. You’re lucky if you find some in your weekly CSA share, but chances are the beans will amount to less than a cup by the time you shell them—a disappointing result after all that work.

I seem to get myself into this situation every spring. Enticed by the large, exotic-looking pods, I eagerly grab a few handfuls at the farmers’ market. But then what? What can I do with a measly portion of these earthy seeds that will allow their unique flavor to take center stage?  

I was faced with this challenge recently and arrived at what I think is the perfect solution. My go-to approach would be to toss them with some other spring vegetables and pasta, but would the precious beans get lost? Is that boring and predictable? If I really want to highlight the spring legumes I should make them the main ingredient, right? So with that in mind, I decided to make a rustic puree to spread on toast. It would be the perfect accompaniment to a leafy green salad.

The first order of business was to choose the best specimens from the market. Fresh favas are most tender when they’re still on the small side, so avoid pods that are huge and bulging. Once shelled, the inner seeds should have a pale green color—tawny beans have grown past their prime. After the favas are cooked, the tough, waxy skins should be removed (I know, some people can’t be bothered and would rather just eat the skins, but this step is crucial for a smooth texture).

Without giving it too much thought, I mashed the blanched legumes with the back of a fork and seasoned the mixture with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. It was simply prepared and it certainly captured the fava-ness I was after, but it needed one more element of brightness. I added a few torn mint leaves to the mix and found the spread satisfying and delightful. The Levain loaf I bought from Mamadou (the Winchester-based bakery who sells at the Arlington farmers' market) provided an ideal delivery method. I toasted the bread and smeared it with the bright green mash.

My reinvented bruschetta, of sorts, may not constitute a meal or even a side dish. But I discovered a way to turn a small amount of my springtime favorites into a respectable snack that lets the starring ingredient stand on its own. Next time you think that scant cup won’t amount to a hill of beans, think again.


Recipe for fava beans on toast

 

salt, to taste

1 cup shelled fresh fava beans (from about 2 pounds unshelled beans)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 sprigs fresh mint, leaves chopped

4 slices crusty bread, toasted

1. Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the fava beans and cook 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. When the beans are cool enough to handle, remove the skins.

2. Place the peeled beans in a medium bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice, and salt to taste. Mash with the back of a fork until you have a rustic puree. Gently stir in the chopped mint.

3. Top each slice of toasted bread with 1/4 of the puree. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and serve.