In fact, there were several different elements in this lesson competing for attention. First was some background on favas, since they are the original old world bean, unlike virtually every other bean in the world, which traces its lineage back to the Americas. There is also the strange little casing from which the fava must be liberated before it can be consumed.
We also had asparagus spears that needed to be cut in a decorative fashion for our salad. And then came the matter of a vinaigrette that starts with roasted garlic. For this I introduced the kids to parchment paper, an easily overlooked but extremely handy kitchen supply that gives rise to its own cooking technique: oven steaming. I showed the kids how to slice the top off a whole head of garlic, drizzle it with olive oil, then wrap it in parchment paper, and again in aluminum foil for roasting in the oven.
I've always purchased my favas frozen at the local Latin store. The tender, sweet bean is encased in a tough shell. Defrost the beans in a pot of boiling water, drain and chill in cold water. If you make a slit at one end of the shell with a paring knife, the bean slides right out. One of the students preferred prying the shell open with his fingers. To each his own.
I now find shelled favas in the frozen section of the local Whole Foods. This eliminates a lot of work. For the salad, we found that 1 1/2 cups each (about 8 ounces) of favas and frozen peas, plus 1 pound of fresh asparagus trimmed and cut on an angle into 1/2-inch pieces, then cooked until tender, made enough for at least a dozen snack-size portions. Cut this recipe in half to make four adult-sized dinner portions.
To defrost the favas and peas, we simply combined them in a bowl and covered them with hot water for a minute or two.
Roast the garlic in its parchment-foil packet ahead of time in a 350-degree oven for one hour, then give it a chance to cool. When it comes time to make the vinaigrette, squeeze the garlic like toothpaste out of its paper skin into a mixing bowl. Kids love the smell of roasted garlic, but they weren't quite sure what to make of the squishy, caramelized puree that emerged.
"Ew!" they exclaimed. "It looks like poop!"
When roasted like this, garlic is completely transformed--it loses all its agressive tendencies and becomes very mild, even sweet.
Use a whisk to blend 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and a drop or two of extra-virgin olive oil into the garlic puree. When the oil is completely incorporated, mix in another 1/3 cup. Season with salt to taste. At this point, I would normally add about 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped. But we don't do nuts at school because of allergies. One alternative might be the toasted roasted soy beans you sometimes find in the bulk section. One of the students suggested water chestnuts to give the salad a little crunch.
Toss the salad with vinaigrette, chopped parsley, some crumbled Feta cheese and serve at room temperature. The kids gave this dish a big thumbs-up. It would make an excellent side for a spring picnic.