Thursday, July 25, 2013

Eating Omily: Not my Favourite; Just Favas

Ever since reading Alice Waters' description of fava beans as 'more than worth the effort!', I've bought them.  Once a year.  Yes, they're delicious, and yes, they have such a short season that they're a special Summer treat that helps to root me into the year...but more than worth the effort?  I'm not sure I'm convinced.

This is what fava beans look like in the pod.  At Union Square, they go for close to $5 a pound, which is more than I pay for heirloom tomatoes, though less than I pay for cherries some of the time
Of course, you can't eat them like this: the fava beans are inside these pods...which are weird and fuzzy inside.  If someone had told me a fava spider spins each individual pod full of webs and that's how they got that way, I'd believe them.  It takes a bit of effort to get each bean out of each pod: the pods are tough, and don't easily split all the way down the middle.  Sometimes there are only one or two beans in a pod.  It's rare that it's totally full, but it happens sometimes
Eventually, your fingernails feel defiled with fava bean pod juice, and you have a neat pile of fava beans far smaller than the pile of fava bean pods.
Ok, that was a bit of work, but NOW you can eat them, and they'll be fabulous, right?  WRONG!

Each bean is still inside of a thick, bitter skin.  Apparently they're sometimes left on in meditaranian cooking, but Alice Waters says to remove them, and I always do.  So now you boil water, dump the beans in, wait a few second, pull out a hot bean, cut a slit in it with a knife, and squeeze. If the bean slides out of the skin, you drain all the beans, and let them cool.  If not, you try another bean in a few more seconds.
Each bean must be slit, and squeezed to remove it from its bitter skin, leaving behind a pile of bitter skins, yes, bigger, than the pile of gleaming spring green-yellow beans.  Yes, now, you can eat them.  But wait!  You have to cook them first.  Alice Waters suggests a puree:
A few tablespoons of olive oil, a rosemary branch, a sliced clove of garlic, and the fava beans go into the pot.  Keep an eye on things: if the beans look dry, add water.  Keep the lid on, and be patient.  It takes a while for them to get tender enough.  You should be able to mash one into a smooth puree with the back of your spoon.

When that happens, drain them (again), and puree them with a spoon, adding really good olive oil, and a little cooking liquid if necessary to thin out the puree. Enjoy with toast.

No, really, really, enjoy them.  You earned it!

Will you try fava bean puree this year, or does this sound like just too much?   You'll never know until you taste it!

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