Hurrah, Fava!

June 28, 2012

Fava beans made an appearance at the Boulder Farmers’ Market last weekend, so naturally I snagged some from Red Wagon Farm. Last year I made a great fava bean pesto, as well as a dish with favas, couscous, mushrooms, and potatoes. But this year I discovered something even better (and to my surprise, much simpler to make!).

I decided to use the fava beans in some kind of sauce on the Garlic Chive Pappardelle I picked up from Pappardelle’s. I did some searching online to check out what flavors went well with favas and was intrigued by a purée made with cream. Of course there was no way I would be using cream in my recipe (way too much fat), but what about Greek yogurt? A few more searches turned up some hits, plus mentions of pecorino cheese, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, and Moroccan spices.

I found myself going back and forth on which of the above to use, and not really making much progress, so I figured I would just start by puréeing the favas, and add stuff until it tasted good. So I put my favas in the processor with a bit of yogurt and some chicken stock, and puréed it. I added just a bit of salt and…Oh, My! Wow. It tasted incredible. Really? That was all that was needed? Fantastic! Granted fava beans are a bit laborious to prepare themselves, but for this result they were very well worth it! I sautéed a little chopped green (well, they were purple to be honest) onions and garlic in olive oil, then combined it with the pasta and the purée. Outstanding! (And nearly fat-free – only about 2 grams in a cup of purée!)

Some of the Ingredients for Pasta with Fava Bean Purée

Some of the Ingredients for Pasta with Fava Bean Purée. Why not all of the ingredients, you ask? Well, at this point I really had no idea what I was going to use with the fava beans. But I felt compelled to take a picture of something!

Garlic Chive Pappardelle with Fava Bean Purée
serves 4 (double for more*)

8 oz pasta
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
5-7 green (or small spring) onions, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
about 1+1/4 lbs fava bean pods
2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
3 Tbsp chicken (or vegetable) stock
1/4 tsp salt

* I have a small food processor. I’m thinking if you have a larger one, you may want to double this recipe just because the quantity of a single recipe might not be enough for the blade to reach!

First prepare the fava beans: Rinse the pods, and then remove the individual beans from the pods.  Drop the beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes, and then remove them with a slotted spoon, and put them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking.  Once they have cooled, peel off the outer covering of the fava beans (you can usually just rip the end and then squeeze the beans out).  The resulting beans should be a vivid green color at this point. Here are some pictures of the process:

Fava beans in the pod, removed peels, resulting beans

Next, make the purée: In a food processor, purée the fava beans, yogurt, stock, and salt until smooth. Set aside.

Fava Bean Purée

Fava Bean Purée

Start bringing the pasta water to a boil, and then heat the olive oil on medium low in a small sauté pan. (The sequencing here isn’t time-critical, you just want to finish sautéing before the pasta is done.) Once the oil is warm, sauté the onions for 30-60 seconds, then add the garlic, and sauté until fragrant, for just about 15-30 seconds. Remove from heat once done.

Drain the pasta, then return it to the now empty pasta pot, adding the purée and the onions and garlic. Turn the heat to low, and stir, just until the purée is evenly distributed. This should be enough to warm up the purée.

Garlic and Chive Pappardelle with Fava Bean Purée

Garlic and Chive Pappardelle with Fava Bean Purée

One of my favorite things to make with fava beans is pesto. It’s got a brighter flavor than the standard pesto, and is a lovely spring green color. I’m always looking for ways to cut down on fat in typically rich dishes, so there are a couple of things I do with this pesto. First, I use pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts. Pumpkin seeds have about a third of the calories and only a fifth of the fat of pine nuts. Second, I use just a fraction of the olive oil in traditional pesto, and add a small amount of vegetable broth to thin the pesto out (since it’s much thicker without the huge amount of oil). So the overall reduction in calories and fat is enormous. But the great thing is, this pesto still tastes magnificent! Fresh ingredients are key, but because everything in the recipe is already pretty rich and bold tasting, I don’t think you lose a thing. The garlic was nowhere to be found during the ingredient photo shoot – what a diva!

Pesto Ingredients (not pictured: garlic)

Fava Bean Pesto
1/2 cup peeled, blanched, shelled fava beans
1/4 cup shelled, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1/2 c tightly packed basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
3/4 oz grated pecorino romano (or parmesan)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
4 tsp olive oil
2 Tbsp vegetable broth
1/4 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until the pesto has the desired texture (some graininess, but not too much).

Fava Bean Pesto

So – what to do with the pesto? I’m really not very good at planning what I am going to make before I buy things at the Farmers’ Market, so I always end up having to brainstorm on Sundays before we go shopping for the week. Since the pesto would be enough for at least two dishes, I decided that tonight I would make a salad with potatoes, green beans, and pesto, inspired by a recipe in Vegetarian Times’ Farmers’ Market edition. While I was out running errands, I splurged on a great piece of maguro tuna at Whole Foods, announcing to my husband that he was on grill duty this evening. I made my salad, and when my husband brought in the tuna, he said ‘hmmm – that really looks like a niçoise – we could almost put the fish on top’. I questioned, ‘does tuna go with pesto?’, and was answered with ‘EVERYTHING goes with pesto’. So – there we have it – a re-invention of niçoise!

My husband doesn’t measure when he cooks, so the amounts for the marinade in the recipe are approximations. You can see what it tastes like and adjust as you’d like. I put the potatoes and beans with pesto on top of arugula, which we felt didn’t quite fit, so in the future will probably either sauté it briefly, or at the very least, toss the arugula with the pesto as well.

Salad Ingredients

Tuna Niçoise with Fava Bean Pesto
serves 4

1+1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste

16 oz maguro (bluefin) or ahi (yellowfin) tuna
1 lb new potatoes, chopped in even bite-sized pieces
1 pt string beans
4-5 Tbsp fava bean pesto, at room temperature
1 large bag of arugula
1 tsp olive oil

You’ll want to coordinate things so that the potatoes, beans, and tuna are done at about the same time.  It’s easiest to do this dish with 2 people – one to handle the grill and one to handle the potatoes and beans.  Timing is going to depend on your method of parboiling and steaming, and how done you like your tuna, but here is the sequence we used:

Mix the ingredients for the marinade, and then marinate the tuna for about 20 minutes, turning it over at 10 minutes. After you turn the tuna, preheat the grill, and then a couple minutes later, start parboiling the potatoes, either in a pot of boiling water on the stovetop or in a glass bowl of water in the microwave until they are tender (about 12 minutes in the microwave).   Preheat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  When the potatoes have about 3-5 minutes left, sear the tuna on a hot grill – about 2-3 minutes a side, depending on the size and thickness of the tuna.  (And grill it longer if you don’t like your tuna rare or medium rare).   While the tuna is grilling, steam the green beans (about 3 minutes in our steamer in the microwave), and sauté the arugula in the olive oil for about 2-3 minutes until wilted.

Make a bed of the arugula in 4 bowls.  Toss the potatoes, green beans, and pesto separately, then put on top of the arugula.  Slice the tuna into several pieces per salad, and place on top.

Tuna Niçoise with Fava Bean Pesto

There was so much great produce at the Boulder Farmers’ Market today.  It’s amazing how the variety of vegetables starts to explode in July.  It was a 5-bag day for me.  I brought home cucumbers,  hakurei turnips, golden, red, and white (!?) beets, red, orange, and yellow carrots, tomatoes, purple and green kohlrabi, fava beans, purple potatoes, a grab bag of Hazel Dell mushrooms, garlic, wild arugula, baby red kale, cilantro, basil, chocolate mint, Pappardelle’s Gluten-Free Chipotle Lime Small Trumpet pasta, Olomomo Righteous Cinnamon Cayenne Almonds, and a six-pack of Street Fare mini cupcakes.

Produce and Prepared Foods from the Boulder Farmers' Market

Hakurei turnips are little smooth white turnips that have a very mild, sweet taste.  They are a far cry from the tough, wintry turnips that you may have eaten and developed a lifelong aversion to during your childhood.  I plan to use these for my second attempt at making spicy sweet refrigerator pickles, but they are good just refrigerated and sliced.  I had never seen white beets before, so when I saw a bunch of beets which included golden, red and white varieties, I couldn’t pass it up.

Kohlrabi is one of my favorite vegetables from childhood.  It had actually been over twenty years since I had seen them (oh, wait – I’m dating myself here, aren’t I?  I meant ten years), when I happened upon some last year at the Boulder Farmers’ market.  Both the purple and green varieties are white after they are peeled, and they have a fresh mild taste that is brought out best by refrigerating them. Slice and eat them raw.

I was intrigued by the wild arugula, since I love arugula so much, and asked the woman at the stand how it would differ from regular arugula.  She gave me a sample of the much spicier, peppery greens, and I decided I would definitely take some of them home.

Fava beans are one of my favorite Farmers’ Market finds. The fresh ones are infinitely better than the dried variety. They take a bit of work to prepare, since you have to remove them from the pods, then blanch them, and then peel them, but they have such a unique, fresh taste that they are definitely worth it.

Tonight’s dinner was one of the most colorful I have ever made – great for brightening up the rainy evening in Boulder!

Dinner Ingredients

To start, I made a wild arugula salad with red and yellow carrots, hakurei turnips, and Righteous Cinnamon Cayenne Almonds.  The wild arugula was very, very peppery, so I wanted to make sure to use several ingredients with a sweeter flavor to offset it.  My husband was kind enough to whip up some balsamic vinaigrette when I discovered that we were out of the Annie’s we usually use.

Wild Arugula Salad

For the entree, I had a rather disparate group of ingredients, but figured I’d try to make them go together, and they actually turned out pretty well.  I had gotten some whole wheat pearled couscous at Whole Foods earlier in the week, so wanted to try that.  You could use the regular pearled couscous (which seems to be the same as Israeli couscous as near as I can tell), or barley instead.  If you don’t have purple potatoes, white or red ones would work fine – but they won’t be as pretty!  I used the mushrooms from the grab bag that Hazel Dell Mushrooms offers at the Farmers’ Market.  Today’s bag contained oyster, portabella, and shiitake by the time I got there (they were out of cinnamon caps and lion’s mane by then).  I used my purple scallions and the garlic with the stalk still attached, but green onions and conventional garlic can stand in for those if you don’t have either of the first two.  This garlic had six cloves and smelled a bit stronger than the stuff I got from Cure Organic Farms earlier in the week, so after removing the outer layers to get down to the cloves, I removed the extra layer around each clove, and then just used three of them rather than all six.

Whole Wheat Pearled Couscous with Mushrooms, Purple Potatoes, and Fava Beans

serves 2-4 (as entrée or side)

2/3 cup uncooked pearled couscous
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth (or as per package directions)
1/2 lb purple potatoes, sliced and cut into smaller pieces
1 pint of fava beans
2-3 cups sliced mushrooms
2-3 purple scallions, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp butter
3 tsp olive oil, divided
paprika, salt, and pepper to taste

Parboil potatoes by either placing them in boiling water on the stove, or in a glass bowl of water in the microwave and cooking on high. Since this was a small amount of potatoes, and I cut them fairly small, they only took about 4 minutes. Take them out as soon as they are mostly tender, and then set them aside.

Rinse the fava bean pods, and then remove the individual beans from the pods.  Drop the beans in boiling water for about 3 minutes, and then remove them with a slotted spoon, and put them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking.  Once they have cooled, peel off the outer covering of the fava beans (you can usually just rip the end and then squeeze the beans out), then set aside.  They should be a vivid green color at this point.

Cook the couscous according to package directions, but using the broth in place of water (for the kind I had it took 8-10 minutes).  In the meantime, heat 1 tsp olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, and then saute the scallions and garlic until tender, and just starting to turn golden. Remove the scallions and garlic from the pan and set aside.  Heat the butter in the same pan on high heat.  When the butter is bubbly and just starts to brown, add the mushrooms, and cook until tender, turning several times to ensure both sides cook.  Stop before they become juicy.

Add the barley, scallions, garlic, potatoes, fava beans, and 2 tsp olive oil to the skillet with the mushrooms.  Cook, stirring, until heated through. Add paprika, salt and pepper to taste.

Pearled Couscous with Mushrooms, Potatoes, and Fava Beans

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