Spring has slowly been coming to the Pacific Northwest. Sure, we’ve gotten our miner’s lettuce, fiddleheads and wood sorrel. Yes, the halibuts have come and spring king salmon are making their legendary runs up the Columbia River. Even morels have started poking their curious honey combed heads through the forest floors. But what has been noticeably missing has been one of the oldest and most loved harbingers of spring; the fava bean. Since time immortal, favas have been appreciated for their buttery texture and nutty flavor. They have appeared on tables across the globe from Egypt to Mexico and all point between. The tendency may be to complicate with elaborate recipes but true lovers know they are best appreciated eaten simply.
Here are three recipes for you to savor this spring.
The first step after buying your favas is to clean and blanch them. It only takes a few seconds and is rather mindless so pour yourself a glass of wine and begin by removing the outer pod. You can use a small pairing knife, but it is easiest with your fingers. Each pod contains three to five favas, sometimes more. Collect all the beans in a bowl.
Bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil and drop the favas in for 20 seconds. Immediately cool them in a bowl of ice water. Lightly squeeze the favas to remove the outer skin and reveal the super tender and vivid bean.
1.Tartines of Fava, Radishes and fresh Goat Cheese
The recipe is beyond simple and does not require an actual recipe. Drizzle olive oil over sliced bread and brown on both sides in your broiler. Smear fresh goat cheese, ricotta, mascarpone or even cream cheese over. If you live in the Portland area be sure to use Portland Creamery’s fresh goat cheese. Top with a salad of favas, sliced radishes, olive oil, sea salt and pepper and even a tiny amount of lemon zest. I garnished my tartines with agretti, a seldom used plant popular in Italy. It is also known as saltwort or friar’s beard. Groundworks Organics, a Eugene, Oregon farm described it as similar to sea beans only less salty.
2. Salad of raw purple asparagus, favas and snap peas
A quick ‘raw’ salad of shaved purple asparagus (obviously you can substitute green asparagus), sliced snap peas, fava beans and radishes tossed with fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, shaved pecorino cheese and pluches of chervil from my spring garden. I shaved the asparagus using a mandolin BUT you can use a vegetable peeler just as easily.
3. Fava, Spring Onion and Smoked Bacon Soup
Though, perhaps the most complex of the three recipes, this is very much a home dish rather than something to be eaten in a restaurant. Chefs would complicate its simplicity and remove the very virtue that makes it great. As I prepared this quick soup, my mother’s voice haunted me. When I was a budding chef I always made soups using some form of a stock as the base. My mother would question me why, opting for the more French method of simply using water. 40 years later I hate to admit, but she is right. Water is much more neutral in flavor and allows the ingredients to truly shine.
On the way home from the Portland farmer’s market I stopped at Edelweiss, a small German butcher shop with a selection of specks to buy. I opted for margen speck, a slightly salty and smoky bacon as good eaten raw as lightly cooked. I cut five thin slices two inches by one inch to garnish my soup with.
The recipe is simple, but has a few more steps and ingredients than the previous two.
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 5 slices bacon
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- 4 cups water
- 2 pounds fava beans – shuck, blanched and peeled
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/2 lemon squeezed
- chervil to garnish
- Melt butter in a non-reactive pot.
- Add bacon and gently cook for five minutes. I do so over low heat as to not color the bacon at all.
- Add spring onions and continue to cook for a few moments.
- Add water and bring to boil, let simmer for ten minutes then remove bacon.
- Reserve one tablespoon of favas for a garnish then put remaining fava beans into a blender.
- Add cream, egg yolks and lemon juice and puree till smooth and creamy.
- Gently heat soup constantly stirring to prevent egg yolks from scrambling.
- Pour into warmed soup bowls and garnish with chervil.