Friday, June 18, 2010

Fava Bean Purée

If you've been to a few meals at our home, you've more than likely bumped into this fava bean purée. It is a staple in my hors d'oeuvres arsenal. Toast up some crostini and we're well on our way. Add a couple of cheeses and some imported olives, and we are set to entertain.

With spring come fava beans. It's early spring through early summer that is the best time of year for these fellows. As the season begins to turn, the beans change from lovely, small, and bright green to large, starchy, and pale yellow-green. The smaller beans are best for a quick sauté or short turn in the pan with a glug of cream.

The clunkier ones are best for a purée like this one.

Sometimes, like on this last trip to the farmer's market, I find myself getting lazy and only selecting the massive fava bean pods. You can make much quicker work of these big boys.

If you are able to find smaller favas this late in the season, you really ought to take advantage of them. They will lighten up the purée a bit -- making it less sticky and dense -- and coax out a more brilliant green.

Some people shy away from preparing fava beans, because there is a bit of labor involved in getting to the actual beans.

They require two levels of recovery.

First they need to be shucked from the pod and then each bean needs to be peeled. Once the shucking is complete, a thirty second blanching helps speed up the peeling process dramatically.

I hate washing spinach, but fava bean preparation has never bothered me. It's almost soothing.

Aside from the standard fava prep, this recipe is a breeze. It could easily be jazzed up with garlic, mint, or rosemary, but I almost always prepare it straight.

It's thanks to Grilled Cheese Night at Campanile that I became such a huge fan. Nancy Silverton and Mark Peel (back when they were still an item) served their fava bean purée with braised bacon and shaved pecorino. Every time it was on the menu, I had to order it.

To my delight, the recipe for their fava bean purée is one of the first included in their book, The Food of Campanile. After making it once, you probably won't even need to look at the recipe again.

You need the fava beans, some excellent olive oil, a lemon, and salt. With so few ingredients, you need to make sure that they are all top notch.

Even if crostini are not your thing (and really, they should be, since put anything on top and presto -- hors d'oeuvres!), this makes an excellent filling for ravioli, or an unusual layer on a spectacular sandwich.

Then there's one of my personal fava-rites: a very satisfying lunchtime bruschetta with a shaving of parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Fava Bean Purée

1 pound fresh fava beans, removed from pods (4 pounds in the pods)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

Blanch the shelled fava beans in the water for about 30 seconds. Immediately scoop out and plunge the beans into the ice water for about 30 seconds. Drain the beans.

Using your fingers, remove the peel of the fava beans by pinching off one end of the skin and gently squeezing the bean out of the skin. Reserve the shelled and peeled fava beans in a medium saucepan.

Add the olive oil and about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Over high heat, bring to a gentle boil. remove the pan from the heat, and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the beans and oil into a food processor. Process only until the beans achieve a creamy consistency. Take care not to over-process. Correct the seasoning to taste with kosher salt and fresh lemon juice. Serve immediately, or allow to sit for up to 4 hours at room temperature.


Kress said...

This sounds delish! For this recipe you recommend using an excellent olive oil -- I'd love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Which ones do you like? Do you have a favorite olive oil for everyday cooking? Is there a special olive oil you use for dishes like this where the flavor is especially important?

jacqueline f. said...


Thanks for the feedback! I think I'll soon do a post on the olive oils that I routinely use and love.

Monique said...

I miss having the grilled cheese sandwiches with the fava bean purée. We should try to make our own version soon.