Friends who like fava beans joined us for dinner this week and I took the opportunity to explore new ways to serve these rich, flavorful beans. My fava crop is a little late this year because I planted late so the mid-August timing for a fava-themed dinner was good.
My quest for new recipes began, as it sometimes does, with a search of the New York Times Cooking site. Entering “fava bean recipes” yielded lots of inspiring titles and photos of fava bean purees, salads, pasta sauces, soups, stews and risottos, and, most useful to me, names of the recipe authors so I could go to cooks whose recipes I’ve liked in the past. David Tanis, Melissa Clark and Martha Rose Shulman are three favorites.
Imagining salads for this summer meal, I was drawn to David Tanis’s recipe for Burrata With Fava Beans, Fennel and Celery as well as to a favorite Tanis recipe I’ve made before: Fresh Multi-Bean Salad with Charred Red Onion. Offering more inspiration, Martha Rose Shulman’s Green Bean and Fava Bean Salad With Walnuts also combines favas with green beans, and her Rainbow Quinoa Salad With Fava Beans and Herbs suggests a tasty pairing of favas and quinoa.
As often happens when ingredients overlap among recipes, I started combining recipes. Inspired by Shulman’s pairing of favas and quinoa, I decided to serve Tanis’s Fresh Multi-Bean Salad with Charred Red Onion on a bed of red quinoa. Another change I made to the Tanis recipe was to sauté the fava beans in olive oil, garlic and chopped rosemary until they were soft rather than adding them raw. I like the sharp, earthy flavor of raw fava beans but sautéing brings out a deeper richness that worked well with the sweet bean flavors of the cooked pole beans.
As also often happens, I substituted some ingredients. I wanted to make Tanis’s Burrata With Fava Beans, Fennel and Celery, but I don’t have any celery in my kitchen garden. Remembering a salad of Golden Beets with Fava Beans and Mint I’d made from from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, I substituted yellow beets from my kitchen garden for the celery, peeling the beets, cutting them into ½ inch cubes and steaming them. I left the favas raw for this salad. The combination of the slightly bitter raw favas with the deeply sweet yellow beets and finely sliced sweet fennel was perfect dressed with a lemon vinaigrette and tossed with the creamy burrata.
Finally, beginning the meal with favas, I made a simple fava bean purée for an appetizer, serving it with raw sweet peppers for dipping. I followed Alice Water’s recipe from Chez Panisse Vegetables.
3 lbs. fava beans
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1/4 bay leaf
1 small sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
- Shell the favas discarding pods. Boil a large pot of water and blanch the favas for 1 minute. Drain and plunge in ice water. When cool pop the favas out of their skins.
- Warm 2/2 cup olive oil in a sautee pan. Add beans and salt. Add garlic, the herbs sprigs and a splash of water. Cook favas at a slow simmer stirring occasionally 30 minutes till they are completely soft. Add a splash of water if the beans begin to dry out.
- When they are done discard the herbs and mash the beans to a paste with a potato masher or puree in a food processor. Taste for seasoning and add lemon juice. If paste is at all dry add additional olive oil. Oil is an important part of the flavor so don’t be stingy. Serve at room temperature with slices of grilled baguette.
While these fava salads would make fine meals on their own, for this shared meal they complemented our friend Anne’s very delicious poblano chili relleno, stuffed with potato and cheese and topped with a spicy tomato sauce, all the vegetables in it from her garden. High summer gardens are great inspirations for dinners with friends and we’re looking forward to more of these dinners as late summer slides into autumn.