I love that spring has almost sprung and a rainbow of flavors and ingredients are bursting from the ground and artfully displayed at our local markets.
Abundant shades of green announce spring’s arrival like a royal herald and the notes of his trumpet are delicious fava beans, asparagus, fennel, spring onions and nettles.
And if you’re saying to your self what the . ..? Nettles…? Yes, stinging nettles, uber delicious, loaded with good-for-you vitamin C, calcium, potassium, flavonoids, histamine and serotonin — all the great chemicals one needs to re-energize after a cold winter and to combat spring allergies.
Apart from the fact that even the very young plants sting, nettles are sensational in soups, pasta dishes and frittatas. Truth be told, they are good in any dish that you might otherwise use cooked spinach or kale. But it is critical to cook nettles, if only plunged into boiling water for 30 seconds then shocked in ice water to get rid of the stinging. Oh, and wear gloves for the first part of the cooking process … Even easier, order nettle-anything when you are out, let us do the hard work in the kitchen.
But today, let’s talk about favas. They are among one of my favorite ingredients, albeit a laborious ingredient. They, more than asparagus, even green garlic or spring onions, sing of spring to me. If you’ve seen them and been intimidated, that’s OK. Once you take a bundle home and try it you will be hooked. They are seriously the king of beans…
First thing you need to do is remove the beans from the pods by running a finger up the seam of the pod, splitting it open and removing the beans. There are about four to five beans per pod. You’ll notice that the beans have a thick, pale green-white skin around them. Some people cook them up this way with sautéed garlic, onion and wine and they are delicious, but they become cooked-through, losing that green, spring vibrancy.
Secondly, you’ll need to remove the second skin. There are two different methods.
The easiest, in my opinion, is to put the fava beans in boiling salted water to blanch for 30 seconds. Remove the beans from the boiling water and submerge them in ice-cold water to stop the cooking process. This step softens the second skin. With your fingers, squeeze the bean at the base and pop the bean out.
The other method is to make a small slit at the bottom of the beans and pop them out, but this tends to break up the beans and you will still need to blanch them before eating. Favas can be eaten raw, but the starchiness is higher and the bean is less enjoyable.
Fava Bean Bruschetta
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. red-wine vinegar
1 T. agave nectar
1 small shallot, finely chopped
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2½ cups shelled fava beans
1 pint toy box tomatoes cut in half
¼ cup parsley leaves
¼ cup petite mint leaves
¼ cup petite basil leaves
4 slices French country bread
Steps: In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine oil, lemon juice, vinegar, agave nectar and shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk to emulsify.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add fava beans and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and shock in ice water. Remove outer skins and place beans in a large mixing bowl. Separate a ½ cup blanched fava beans.
Heat a grill pan set over high heat. Brush or drizzle with olive oil on both sides of bread. Grill until charred with grill lines, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and immediately rub with raw garlic clove, set grilled bread onto a platter or individual plates.
Smash the ½ cup of fava beans using a fork or wooden spoon, add 2 T. olive oil and sea salt. Use this mixture to spread on the bread before topping with your dressed mixture.
Whisk dressing to reincorporate. Drizzle over bowl of favas, tomatoes and herbs. Toss gently to combine. Divide salad among each piece of bread. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve immediately.