Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Scene Stealers

It's funny what a movie can do for food. Sometimes a movie reference can bring a dish or even a drink back to life (when was the last time you had, let alone heard of a white Russian before The Big Lebowski?) or even give it a legacy (martini shaken or stirred?). For others, dishes are inextricably linked to their film appearances, like for those who slurp spaghetti hoping the love of their life will be on the other end Lady and the Tramp style, or the people for whom fried green tomatoes will forever be a movie staring Kathy Bates. Fava beans, I fear, have suffered at the hand of Hannibal Lecter, their memory forever tainted by cannibalism and a nice Chianti. But I'd like to erase all that because they're one of my favorite beans, and frankly, because they deserve better.

Fava's require no more than 2 minutes cooking time max, so they're a dream for quick spring and summer cooking. They're also quite flavorful on their own (they remind me of the the earthy, funky taste of asparagus), so after a quick blanch and peel, they're super tasty with little more than a glug of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. I was lucky enough to receive a double dose of fava beans this week in my CSA share, so I decided to try out a new preparation. Normally this would be too late
in the year for these little green treats, but our CSA produce is at the mercy of the weather, and it's not nearly warm enough for most summer produce, so I'm getting to enjoy some great spring foods instead. Favas are (to me, at least) the epitome of springtime flavor, so doctoring them up too much would be a bad thing. But, pairing them with other fresh springtime treats would be a great compromise. After some research I came across a great recipe from the book Pintxos: Small Plates in the Spanish Tradition (pintxos are small bites like tapas). It used a somewhat rich sounding dressing of créme fraîche and olive oil, so I pared it down to use Greek yogurt instead. A few tablespoons of olive oil, some thinly sliced mint and lots of fresh lemon juice and zest rounded out the ingredients along with generous pinches of salt and white pepper.

Overall the dressing was so tasty that even after dousing the beans in extra sauce, I took a spoon to the bowl and ate the rest straight up (is that bad?). The favas were perfectly cooked (I went for 2 minutes even though the recipe called for 3, which sounded excessive) and had exactly the springtime flavor that I love. The dressing was tart, sour and fruity, all great flavors to contrast the earthy flavor of the favas. I like mine with a bit of bite, since as we all know from childhood (frozen lima beans, gross!) there's nothing worse or smellier than overcooked beans. Definitely give these a try if you can find favas in your neck of the woods, or try using the dressing on grilled or blanched asparagus. If neither of those are doable, I have a sneaking suspicion that grilled veggies (zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, fennel) would be a great foil for the dressing. Here's the recipe with my changes.

Fava Beans with Yogurt-Olive Oil Dressing

1 cup fava beans, shelled
2 heaping Tbsp Greek yogurt (regular yogurt will do, but will be runnier)
2 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
zest of 1 lemon (reserving 1/2 tsp for garnish)
1 Tbsp finely sliced mint
generous pinch of salt
generous grind of white pepper

1. Whisk together all ingredients except for the fava beans until smooth and set aside.

2. Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil and add fava beans. Cook for 2 minutes then remove immediately to an ice bath. Once they've cooled, remove outer skin to reveal the bright green interior.

3. Plate beans and top with generous drizzles of dressing and remaining lemon zest. Enjoy!


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