Pop Those Fava Skins – Pop Pop

Spring may have sprung and gone, but my Fava memories deserve sharing. I’ve told you the tales of the roving basket of fava beans. I didn’t enjoy as many fava dishes this year as I have in the past, but did discover something worth shucking a bean pod about. Normally, after shucking a basked of bean pods, I cook the beans in their shells. Frankly, the thought of adding another step to the cooking process seemed like a pain in the pattooty. Then one fava craving day, I googled FAVA BEANS. I was surfing for any interesting recipes. Each one I found said shell the beans. NOOO! I am not going to boil a pot of water, toss in the beans, pull the beans out and burn my hands just to shell them. Shucking them from the pods is work enough.

Apparently, some other cooks didn’t want to deal with the heat of the boil either. They froze the beans instead. I couldn’t believe it when I read that and googled fava some more. Quite a few sources said freeze the beans and the shells practically pop off the bean. Hmmm. Of course, I read all the instructions and then realized I didn’t have a small sheet pan that would fit in my freezer and guarantee a single layer of beans. Also, I wasn’t going to hang around and time the beans for 30 minutes.

I shucked the beans and tossed them into a nine inch square baking dish – it is what I had that would fit in the little freezer. Were the beans in rigid little rows not touching? Nope, I tossed them in the dish. Yup, they were on top of each other. Then I put the dish in the freezer and forgot about it. Later that night, I remembered and went to visit them. They had turned whitish and looked cold. I stirred them so the ones on the top could cuddle up on the bottom. Then I went to bed.

The next night, I wanted to use the beans. I remembered reading they should be allowed to thaw for at least 15 minutes. Of course, that meant I was not going to get dinner done in time so I didn’t wait. WRONG. This was a classic “Midge doesn’t listen” mistake.

As they thaw they get more and more wrinkly –
like your forehead when you squint in the sun.

When I first tried to pop the beans out, all I did was freeze my fingers and ultimately peel the shell layer off. As the beans began to thaw it became a flim flam thank you ma’am.

Squish and pop!

Notice how the beans in this picture look whiter and wrinkled. They were thawing. It actually works! But you really have to wait at least 15 minutes.

It does take time to shell the beans and frankly, I don’t know if my palate is refined enough to really taste the difference. They do feel smoother when I eat them, but taste better? Jack said they tasted different but he wasn’t sure either if it was better. What do you think?

How did I cook them? Hmm – what did I do? We just chopped up bacon and let it sizzle. Then snuck in a little olive oil and a grossly chopped onion. When the onion started to look translucent, I tossed in the beans and enough lamb bone broth to cover them. The usual seasonings were added to the pot – salt, pepper, bay leaf and (please don’t tell my nonna) garlic powder. I also added some thick chunked potatoes. Slowly they cooked.

They were tasty. Coupled with some crusty rye bread, they were dipping great. Would I peel the shells in the future? Hmmm.

Ci Vediamo,

Midge

http://www.cookinginthekitchensofpontelandolfo.com

http://www.midgeguerrera.com

How Many Bags of Fava Beans Are There?

Fava beans are sprouting in everyone’s gardens!  Yea, these protein filled little fellows make a yummy dinner.  Last year, when the fava beans kept gracing my doorway, it was the first time that I had ever seen a fresh one.  Well, maybe I did when nonna was alive and had the garden the size of a campo di calcio (soccer field) – but I don’t remember.

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Pods are really green giants!

Seriously, this is a question that merits exploration.  How many bags of fava beans are there in Pontelandolfo?  When people pop in after pranza for caffè they usually bring something to share – like what ever is growing in the garden or was baked that morning.  Now me, I like the “what was baked” this morning – no fuss, no muss, just yummy delight.  My neighbor, Zia Vittoria, has an incredible garden.  It is chock full of every vegetable you could possibly imagine – including fava beans.

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Bursting with protein the pods just wait to be picked, gifted and gifted again.

Yet, as other women pop in to visit Zia Vittoria, so do giant bags of fava beans.  H’mm when women visited these women they too brought fava beans.  One day it hit me.  What if there was really only a finite number of bags of fava beans and in any given span of two days the same 15 bags got re-gifted from house to house.

The bags stop here!  Well, when a bag appears on my door step I don’t re-gift it.  I say “guess whose coming to dinner.”  Last year Mr. Fava came often. The top picture is of my first bag of this season.  I pulled out the colander, a knife and a bag for the compost pile.  The sky was blue and I cheerily began popping beans out of the pod.

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Eat local and touch your food first.

So there I am shelling beans and wondering how I was going to cook them when my nipote (Italian for any kid in your family that you are related to and older than) popped by, reached into the bag, ripped open the pod and tossed the beans in his mouth.  RAW!  Who knew!  I was forced to try it – I mean I’ll taste just about anything.  The bean was sweetly good and obviously picked this morning.  I discovered that the day they are picked they are deleeeeesh as a salad – tossed with tuna or just a few slices of onion or whatever you can imagine.  That is also an abundantly easy lunch or dinner.

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If you can find the “zipper” these are pretty easy to open. Or stick the tip of the knife in the top and give it a slice. Then pop the beans into a bucket – just like a carnival.

I kept at the de-podding for a while.  My brain taking journeys back to the early seventies when with my long hair braided, I shelled beans, baked bread, grew sprouts and didn’t inhale.  It seems to me that it used to be fun.  This ain’t fun but it is worthwhile.

How many more are there?  And why do so many giant beans yield one little bean dish?
How many more are there? And why do so many giant beans yield one little bean dish?

One of the things I remembered while I was mindlessly popping beans, was an article in the New York Times that I read last year. A snotty assed food writer had gone to Rome. ordered fava beans in a restaurant and was appalled that they weren’t peeled!  I had no idea what the hell Miss little anal retentive was talking about.  In all the homes I’ve visited for pranza, all the fava bean stew, soup, frittata I’ve eaten, no one peeled off the outer shell.  I was taught to par- boil the beans before creating the dish.  Apparently, after this par-boiling part you can take off the outer shell.  Hell lady, I just spent an hour popping pods and now you want me to spend two hours popping par-boiled beans?

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It looks like a nursery of wee ones nestled on a flannel bed.

I caved and decided to try it.  After boiling the beans and dumping them in the ever faithful colander, I burnt my fingers trying to pop them out of their little shells.  What?  Wait till they cool?  What a thought!  Ten minutes is the maximum of waiting time I give anything.  I popped a few and tasted them.  Damn, it did make a taste difference.  They tasted sweeter and less meaty than they do with the shells on. I looked at the bowl of about a pazillion beans and I looked at Jack.  He gave me the “are you crazy” look – no one here takes the shells off.  When in Rome……

Without skinning the par-boiled beans, I made a simple recipe.   First I sautéd a couple of large onions in local olive oil, toss in cubes of pancetta and let that all get caramelized and crispy.  I always buy un etto of cubed pancetta – 100 grams – so that is probably what I used.  H’mm, from all the veggie tops and pieces I had languishing around, I made vegetable broth yesterday.   I tossed some broth in the pan, added the beans, a dollop of red wine – this is Italy – and let it simmer.  That and crusty bread made a perfect “cena.”

What’s that outside my door?  FAVA!

Thank you Rachel for my present!
Thank you Rachel for my present!