Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Bruschetta with Favas and Peas

The fava beans are coming on strong in the garden but weeks away from producing anything edible. So why am I writing about fava beans and peas?

Earlier in the year, we got an unexpected request from the D.C. Historical Society to help put together a garden-related speaking program. Apparently the folks at the historical society had first contact the U.S. Botanical Garden, and were referred to D.C. Urban Gardeners, a public-spirited group where I am one of the organizers.

It was pretty short notice. They wanted speakers on a monthly basis starting in April. So I volunteered to be first up with a Powerpoint presentation that unveils some of the delicious foods that can be created out of an urban garden. We're calling it, Spring Cuisine from an Urban Kitchen Garden.

Think asparagus, rhubarb, lettuces, greens, radishes, strawberries. In fact, there is quite a lot to choose from when you think about it. And even if you don't have a large garden area, you can easily grow salads and other edibles in containers.

So here I am, making all kinds of recipes and photographing them as quickly as I can with my little Canon Elph camera.

Favas are an interesting case. They are the original "Old World" bean, sometimes referred to as "broad bean." Fresh, the bean itself is incredibly tender, green and flavorful. But getting to it can be a challenge. Besides being enclosed in a fairly massive pod that you sometimes see at the Whole Foods in spring, the bean is hidden away in a rubbery casing that is inedible when mature.


I haven't seen any fresh favas yet. But a decent substitute are the frozen ones sold in Latin markets. Drop the beans into boiling water and cook just a minute or two, or until you can open the casing with the tip of a pairing knife. Give a little squeeze at the uncut end and the bean will pop right out.


To make this bruschetta, I first grill thick slices of a rustic bread. Mix the cooked favas and some cooked peas (fresh or frozen) in a bowl with some chopped fresh mint and season with lemon juice, salt and extra-virgin olive oil. Mash the beans with the back of a spoon or a potato masher. The beans must be flattened or they'll roll right off the bread.

Now give the grilled bread a good rub with a peeled clove of garlic. Smoother it with the mashed beans, drizzle some more olive oil and top it off with a big grating of Pecorino cheese.

We like to serve these bruschetta with cocktails when friends come for dinner. They're easy, and nothing says spring better than favas and peas.

4 comments:

Leslie said...

I'll have to check out the marketa around the corner to see if they have these, if they don't show up on the local market soon - I haven't had favas in a long time and that simple bruschetta looks delicious!

Christine said...

Do you have any thoughts on how to best use sweet pea shoots? I got some at the farmer's market, some of them still with flowers on and having never cooked them before am sending this query out to my fellow farmer's market cooks.

rhino writer said...

In Florence, I had raw fava beans and cheese (although I forget what kind of cheese) as an appetizer. It was Fabulous. But I tried it with the fava beans here, and it wasn't nearly as good. The farmer told me later that it's a different variety if you want to eat them raw. Dang. Guess I'll have to hunt down some seeds and try growing them myself!

Ed Bruske said...

Leslie, I keep looking for favas at the local Whole Foods but I haven't seen any there yet either. Keep looking.

Christine, I am sorry to say I have no experience at all with sweet pea shoots. Sounds like something to put on a sandwich with avocado, or maybe in a vegetable smoothy.

RW, I wasn't aware there were different varieties of favas. But favas are used in agriculture as animal fodder and to build nitrogen in the soil. Maybe that's what your famer friend was referring to. If you can't get fresh favas, see if you can't find the frozen variety.