Spring seemed to come so late this year and one of my favorites of the season was nowhere to be found. Then, today, as I wandered the aisles of my local supermarket produce department I saw them, and said aloud “Aha!”. Finally, fava beans are here. I knew immediately what to make with these beauties. Fava beans take a little time to prepare, but they are worth the effort. Once you shell the beans they must be blanched in order to remove the tough outer skin. For this appetizer the beans are simmered in a good amount of olive oil, with lots of garlic, some rosemary, and a little chili for heat. The resulting puree is a beautiful bright green and pairs perfectly with a salty, herbal topping of olives, feta, and parsley. Mint and lemon add a bright, fresh note to the mixture. This is seasonal produce at its best; enjoy it while you can.
Fava Bean Crostini with Olive-Feta Relish
(makes 6 generous servings)
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, peeled, and 1 finely minced
2 1/2 pounds fava beans in the pod
1 sprig rosemary
1 small, dried red chili, crumbled
1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved lengthwise (or quartered if large)
1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 or 4 mint leaves, torn into small pieces
4 ounces feta cheese (preferably French feta, such as Valbreso)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut the baguette into 1/4-inch slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons altogether). Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 10-12 minutes, turning once, until golden and crisp. While the toasts are warm, rub them with the whole garlic clove. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Remove the fava beans from their pods. Blanch the beans for about 2 minutes in the boiling water. Drain the beans and cool them in ice water, then slip them out of their pale outer shells with your fingers. Heat a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the remaining 2/3 cup olive oil, the rosemary sprig, and the chili. Let them sizzle in the oil a minute or two, then stir in the minced garlic. Stir in the fava beans, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some freshly ground black pepper. Simmer the beans for about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re tender. Strain the beans, reserving the oil. Discard the rosemary and the chili. Transfer the beans to a food processor and puree them. With the motor running, pour in the reserved oil slowly, until the puree is velvety smooth. Add additional oil, if necessary, to achieve the desired texture. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and taste for seasoning. In a small bowl, toss the olives, parsley, and mint with a little olive oil and lemon juice. Crumble in the feta and toss gently to combine. Top each garlic toast with a generous amount of fava puree, then scatter a little olive-feta mixture atop. Serve while the fava puree is still warm.
(Adapted from “Sunday Suppers at Lucques” by Suzanne Goin)