Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fava Beans and a Nice Chianti - Thursday 4/30/2009

I bought 3 pounds of fava beans for $4.00 at the farmer's market last weekend. I have no idea if that's a good price, but it sounded okay to me.

I've been hearing about the much-revered fava on Evan Kleiman's Good Food on KCRW. It's one of the culinary harbingers of spring.

The woman who grew these beauties opened one and let me have a taste. They have a unique pungency that I like.

Isn't that one of the most gorgeous things you've ever seen? I mean, look at the blend of colors! The pod is lined with nature's version of foam and velvet. These things must be special.

They are described as labor-intensive. The chefs I've heard extolling their virtues also admit to letting a kitchen assistant prep them. First you take them out of the pods.

Then you blanch them to make taking the soft inner shell off easier. I guess that's a redundant sentence, since the definition of blanching is the process of immersing food in boiling water and then cold water for the express purpose of removing the skin.

Ew! So then why do we say things like, "The very thought of it made her blanch"?

Or, maybe it's "The very thought of it made her Blanche." As in Blanche DuBois. Now, that I'd like to see.

Wait a minute. Where were we?

Pay attention, will you?

Apologies for the blurry photograph. It's not all that easy to peel fava beans with one hand and man the camera with the other.

It took me a while to find the way to do this. Getting that skin off is easier if you detach the skin by rolling it back and forth between thumb and finger while pinching. See how the skin is kind of loose there?

Then use your thumbnail to pierce the skin, and it will slip right out. I don't know how to make this easier if you don't have a thumbnail handy. As you may have noticed, I tried using a knife in the previous photo. But that didn't work terribly well and felt a little dangerous.

Not that "whee it's a roller coaster" type of danger. More the "I don't want to spend tonight in the emergency room with a bloody dishrag around my thumb" type of danger.

There are probably tons of recipes out there, but I wanted something simple after all that toiling away, so I made pasta with fava beans.

Sauteed garlic in olive oil, added tomatoes and cooked lightly. Added in fresh basil and the fava beans, just enough to heat them up. Tossed them on the pasta with Parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.

Ooh, good! Hydra made himself a hamburger, so there are leftovers for tomorrow.

I'll bet if you had a creative cook in the house, you'd eat what she prepared, wouldn't you?

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