Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Not So Humble Bean

I happen to love beans in  all shapes, forms , colours, textures and flavours but my all-time favourite is the fava bean — aka   Windsor beans, English beans, horse beans and pigeon beans. They've long been a kitchen staple in Europe, the Middle East and South America.  The fava is one of the oldest cultivated plants and yet it's only just catching on in America.  According to my garden sources, it is easy to grow. I've had two minor crops from fava bean seeds  I tucked into my purse when in Italy a few years ago and spirited past the food sniffing beagles at O'Hare.  Unfortunately I failed to dry a few from last years crop and so have been beanless - a has been!

Ah - but all is not lost. My local farmers market had in them in abundance a couple of weeks ago and I was in bean heaven! Most got used in a very simple pasta dish and the 20 or so pods still lurking in the refrigerator door cried out to me yesterday .

Funny things these beans - they grow in a big floppy, fuzzy pod ( and when buying, squeeze the pod to feel the beans - some pods are wimpy and close to empty!) so it's a multi-step prepping process. You have to pod them (kids love to do this) and then, if they are more than a couple of days off the vine they are likely to be a bit tough.  My refrigerator hold-outs were definitely in the latter category so I shucked them, boiled them in lightly salted water for about 6 minutes, drained and when cool enough - popped the inner bean from the outer shell.  A quick dressing of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper and Maldon sea salt and I ate like a Roman Emperor!

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