Thursday, November 16, 2017

Get Set... – Day 2 of This Year’s Marathon of Sides

What’s cooking? Fava-Mint Pesto

Fava beans are one of those foods I always expect to learn that Martha Stewart popularized. (And yes, I do remember the Hannibal Lecter line from Silence of the Lambs, but I think that reference more likely put people off this fine veggie.) In any case, it’s certainly true that favas currently enjoy a sort of cult following among foodies and chefs, including Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Giada De Laurentiis, and – laughably – 15 recipes at The woman is truly incorrigible.

Yet it happens that fava beans – known also as broad beans, field beans, and tic beans – have long been an integral part of cultures as far-flung as China, Colombia, Croatia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Sudan, and Turkey. Whew. Even tiny Luxembourg, where I’m told (by wikipedia, of course) that smoked collar of pork with broad beans is the national dish. It seems that the U.S. is one of the few countries where these nutty, buttery members of the pea/bean family have not been widely celebrated.

That’s about to change, as the Kitchen Goddess is now a fan. Hahahaha... well, we must have our little joke. But seriously, the expanding popularity of favas in the U.S. has meant that they are much easier to find in your grocery store. (If you don’t find them, try the frozen food aisle.) And although the peak season for them is in the spring, I found some just the other day. I’d been saving today’s recipe for next spring, but was so delighted to see them that I decided what-the-heck. I’ll bet you can find some, too. And if you can’t, try this recipe with lima beans, which are not as flavorful but will take you in the same general direction.

One of the oldest plants in cultivation, fava beans are also one of the most densely nutritious. They’re a cheap and fiber-rich source of lean protein, with no saturated fat or cholesterol. What they do have is lots of thiamin, vitamin K, vitamin B-6, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc and magnesium.

So don’t be put off by the way they look, which is a bit like something Jack might have stolen from the giant. The only small downside is that they take a bit of time to peel:

1. Snap off the end of the pod, and pull the string – like you would with a sugar snap pea.

2. Use a finger or a paring knife to break open the pod along the seam, almost like a zipper. Remove the large, white shells.

3. The meat of the plant is inside those large white shells, and it’s easiest to extract the green insides if you drop the shells in boiling water for 30 seconds, then cool them off in an ice bath.

4. Make a small slit in the white shell, and you can practically squeeze the green insides out.

So, not really hard, just a little tedious. (This is where re-runs of Law & Order will come in handy.) The good news is that the green insides need very little cooking (30 seconds). And once they’re cooked, the pesto comes together quickly with a food processor. So for your Thanksgiving feast, this pesto recipe gives you a tastes-good and good-for-you spread to use on crackers or crostini as an appetizer.

Kitchen Goddess note: The recipe calls for Agrumato olive oil, one of the few items the KG doesn’t have in her larder. It’s an extra-virgin olive oil that has been pressed from olives and lemons, simultaneously. The idea intrigues the KG, but not enough to put off making the recipe. So she bought a lemon-infused olive oil, and was very happy with the results. Then, to satisfy the itch, she ordered some Agrumato. Will let you know how that goes.

The freshness of the lemon and mint flavors works beautifully with the nuttiness of the favas, pistachios, and Parmesan. And the color is outstanding.

Fava-Mint Pesto

Adapted from Los Angeles chef Jessica Largey, in Saveur magazine, June 2015.

Makes 2-2 ½ cups.

3 pounds fresh fava beans in their large, green pods (If you find shelled beans or frozen beans, you’ll need 2 cups of them.)
kosher salt
2 tablespoons raw pistachio nuts, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced in half
6 tablespoons Agrumato lemon oil or another good quality lemon-infused olive oil
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¼ cup loosely packed mint leaves, roughly chopped
finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For presentation:
• seeded crackers or French baguette, sliced and toasted
• shaved Manchego cheese or Pecorino Romano, OR goat cheese with small, fresh basil leaves

Shuck the fava beans from their pods, then peel off and discard the white shells. (See directions above.) You want to have about 2 cups of cleaned fava beans.

Fava beans: the shucking process.

Prepare a bowl of ice with water and set it aside. Drop the beans into a medium saucepan of boiling, salted water, and when the water returns to a boil, cook the fava beans 30 seconds. Drain the beans and plunge them into the ice bath for a minute to stop the cooking and set the color. 

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pistachios with the garlic until well chopped. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides, then add 2 tablespoons of the lemon oil and pulse again to combine it well with the nuts and garlic.

Add the fava beans and pulse long enough to get a coarse purée. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl, and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of lemon oil, the Parmigiano-Reggiano, mint, lemon zest, and juice. Continue to pulse long enough to reach a consistency you like. (This spread looks best when it’s slightly rough.) Season with ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with seeded crackers or crostini on the side, or assemble the crostini with shaved Manchego or Pecorino, or goat cheese with a basil leaf.

* * *

I’ve shown the crostini paired with the Curried Butternut Squash Soup from yesterday’s post, but they’d work well with any of these other treats you can find here at Spoon & Ink (click each name for the appropriate link). And all of them can be made ahead of time and reheated on the big day:

Cold Zucchini Soup
Cream of Broccoli Soup
Thai Curry Soup with Broccoli, Spinach, and Cilantro
Wild Mushroom Soup with Madeira

Come back tomorrow for Smashed Carrots with Feta! We’re marching toward Thanksgiving...

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