Fava beans are in full swing right now making it the perfect time for this fresh spring appetizer.
I remember seeing this dish in a food magazine years ago and it was one of those images that stuck in my head. The winter version of this dish isn’t a colorful or particular beautiful dish (beauty really is in the eye of the beholder), but to me it was gorgeous and extremely rustic. This is the type of food Jonny and I love to eat the most even though we may showcase some of our more daring dishes on We Are Never Full.
Last September, we traveled to Maine for a long weekend, one our first times away from our then 11-month old. We had a ball (as you can imagine) even though it rained virtually the whole time. In our last hours in Portland, we ran to seek cover from the rain into a place we had been eyeing up for days – Rabelais book store (we later discovered it was a pretty darn famous and beloved place) – a store dedicated to out of print and hard to find (and easy to find) food and drink books.
We must’ve been in that book store for hours and were very close to spending more money in that shop than we had on the whole Maine trip. After begrudgingly putting away 12 cookbooks we just couldn’t afford to buy, we couldn’t let go of Puglia in Cucina. We had to pay the conversion of euros to dollars and knew this would be a pretty pricy purchase (say that 10 times fast) but we couldn’t let go of it.
The photos are amazing and the loosely translated recipes are simple and super authentic (Donkey Stew, anyone?). On page 88 was the recipe I had burned in my head from years ago – Fave e Cicoria (Fava beans and chicory). Well, favas are in full swing right now and it was the perfect time to make a fresh version of this traditional Puglian dish.
This dish is normally made with dried fava beans and is actually a winter dish, made when the chicory is able to be freshly picked. We decided to try it with fresh fava beans and, wow, I could eat the fava puree as a dish by itself. This would make a really elegant first course to a spring-centric meal.
I think using frozen fava’s would work well after fava season is long gone. Use reconstituted dried fava beans for a traditional touch. Because we do not grow Italian-style chicory, I used escarole (which is a form of chicory) and it worked well. If you have never tasted Italian chicory, know that the flavor is heads and shoulders above what we offer here. It’s called puntarelle and is actually the new/young/tender chicory shoots. It’s unbelievably delicious and I so wish we could easily buy it here. It is often used to make another traditional Roman dish, aptly titled “puntarelle” which is sauteed greens with a garlic and anchovy sauce.
Give this beautiful seasonal and spring dish a shot at home while fresh favas are still available. You will not be disappointed and will be licking the sides of your blender as if you just whipped us some cookie dough!
Fresh Fava Bean Puree and Chicory (Fave e cicoria)
Serves 2-3 as an ample appetizer
2 lbs. of fresh fava beans
Extra virgin olive oil
3-4 finely minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon peperoncino (hot pepper flakes)
1 head of chicory/escarole
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare your fresh fava beans by shelling, blanching and removing each bean. Drain and put in a blender.
Add about 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil to a pan and, on low-medium heat, add 1 or 2 cloves of minced garlic to the pan and slowly soften. You do not want to get much color (if any) on the garlic, just soften it while also softening the taste. After a few minutes of softening the garlic, add it to the blender with the fava beans. Begin to puree. Add more olive oil and a bit of water (maybe only 1/4 cup at first – this all depends on the amount of fava beans used). You want a puree that is thick-ish and not thin. Add a pinch of salt and taste – add more to taste. Set aside.
Boil some water. Chop the bottom off the escarole and add it to the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Drain in a colander and set aside. In a separate pan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and add the shallots. After a minute, add the last of the garlic – allow to saute for a minute. Add the drained escarole, a pinch of salt and a pinch of peperoncino and saute for an additional minute or two.
Prepare your dish by spooning enough fava bean puree on to a plate and top with the sauteed escarole. Serve with a piece of crusty bread. Enjoy!
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