A recent post of food blogger friend Tracy reminded me of the contemplative pleasures of repetitive vegetable prep—stringing sugar snaps, husking and de-silking corn, shelling peas. I recalled how, in my catering kitchen, my assistants–especially my sister and comrade Jennie— would always scramble and fight over who got to snap the bushel of green beans, or peel the shriveled skins off of roasted tomatoes and red bell peppers.
“Kids,” I’d have mediate these women like a mother, “there’s enough for both. Share.”
But, I understood “the fight.” The hands happily occupied, it was fun, and soothing, to move through these tasks while chatting with co-workers, or imagining how the meal would take shape, or allowing the mind to drift to some other far-away place. It’s a blissful part of kitchen life.
Like Tracy, I also find pleasure in focusing on the process itself, its tactile sensations, studying the size and shape and color of the produce, the incremental chipping away at what some might deem a daunting task.
Fava beans satisfy in all those ways.
Favas have thick, fleshy pods, with a fine bit of fuzz on the exterior of the jackets. If you’re lucky, they’ll zip open to reveal a number of plump, light green seeds. The white interior is a custom cushion, protecting each one.
If small enough, (as in smaller that your thumbnail) you can cook those beans as they are. Larger ones need to be briefly blanched to remove yet another sheath, making it a two-fold process.
Trouble? Not at all. Fava beans have a special look and flavor that makes them worth the work–if you want to call it that. In the time it takes to prepare them, you can slow down, enjoy the moment,
breathe as Tracy says.
And then, Dine. Mightily!
This past week, I was able to buy a bagful through our Fresh Harvest Co-op. And, in harmony with the solstice, the summer bounty is beginning to show itself in my garden. Volunteer plants from last year’s lemon basil have sprung up, and a sun gold cherry tomato plant, covered in a mass of yellow flowers, is now offering a handful of ripe yellow globes.
I had a salad in mind: favas cooked in olive oil with pieces of garlic scapes, later to be combined with the sweet-acid bite of those sun golds, along with a chiffonade of lemon basil, and a few shards of pecorino.
As I was pinching the beans to squeeze out each lovely green seed, a larger idea began to form: Accompaniments.
Often, throughout the summer, we will eat an all-vegetable plate for supper. It’s a true embrace of the garden.
I would make a couple of other side dishes, simple in preparation,using our just-harvested goodies to go along with our fava salad:
Tiny new potatoes and pearl onions pan-roasted together in brown butter.
The bi-colored Zephyr squash, remarkable for its sweet nut-like flavor, julienned and quickly sauteed.
At the last minute, I fried each of us a farm egg–add a little protein, a little more summer yellow to the plate.
FAVA BEANS WITH SUN GOLD TOMATOES, LEMON BASIL, SHAVED PECORINO
1 lb. Fava Beans (in their pods. shelled will yield about 1 cup)
3″ piece of Garlic Scape, chopped, (or 2 cloves minced garlic)
Good Olive OIl
5-6 large SunGold Tomatoes, cut into tiny wedges
Several leaves Lemon Basil (Fresh Mint is also very good)
Salt and Black Pepper
White Wine Vinegar–a splash
a piece of Pecorino Romano, for shaving
After removing beans from their pods, blanche for 2-3 minutes in rapidly boiling water. Shock in an icy bath to cool the beans. Pinch each one , to squeeze out the beautiful green seed.
Gently heat 3 T. good olive oil in a skillet. Add beans and chopped garlic scape. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir to coat beans well. Cover and simmer, effectively poaching the favas, for 10 minutes.
They will absorb the oil as they cook.
Place favas in a bowl. Stir in sliced sun golds, lemon basil chiffonade. Splash with white wine vinegar. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Dust with shaved bits of pecorino romano and serve. Makes 2 servings.
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