The Fantastic Fava (Bean)

May 6, 2010

Nothing says spring like the arrival of the first crop of fava beans, a.k.a. broad beans, now making their presence known in the produce department.

These long sturdy pods hide brilliant green flat looking oval “beans” that resemble lima beans. They have been a staple food worldwide for centuries, but do not seem to get their day in the culinary sun here as much because it is a mystery to many as to what to do with them. Italians love them and even have an expression for them that goes like this: “Never tell the farmer how good fava beans are with pecorino cheese.”

Fava beans are a great source of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper and selenium. I love them raw but there are so many ways to prepare them from just boiling them and tossing them with olive oil and salt to pureeing them for a nutty tasting spread on good bread or serving them with pasta or marinating them for this dynamite and impressive looking salad good enough for company.

Parmesan Cheese and Fava Bean Salad Towers

Serves 4

1 cup shelled fava beans
2 ribs celery, diced
2 tablespoons diced red onion
1 tablespoon minced spring onions
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste
2 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Cook the fava beans in 3 cups of boiling salted water until the outer skin easily slips off the bean. Drain and place in a bowl. Add the celery, onions, tarragon, olive oil,vinegar and salt. Toss to combine well. Cover and marinate at least two hours.

Meanwhile heat a10 or 12 inch non stick sauté pan with slopping sides over medium heat.

Spread 2/3 cup of the cheese in the pan and shape it into a 9 inch long by 3 inch wide strip. Cook until the cheese begins to bubble and melt and turn a golden brown. Slip the cheese out of the pan onto a wooden cutting board and while it is still warm, wrap it around a 2 inch wide juice glass or jar and press the ends together and place the glass or jar on its side seam side down on a cutting board. When cool, slip the cylinder off the glass and set aside.

Continue making three more cheese cylinders.

When ready to fill, place each cylinder on a salad plate and carefully fill each with some of the fava bean mixture.

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