I was first introduced to fava beans seven years ago at an Italian professor’s home on the outskirts of Siena. We had them whole with young Tuscan pecorino and thick, partially-crystallized Acacia honey. Since then, I’ve remembered fondly how the little bits of earthy springtime paired perfectly with the tangy, buttery pecorino and sweet honey.
Although I’d encountered the mention of fava beans and recipes for their use over the past several years, my thoughts of them were merely passing fancies, and I never took the initiative to seek them out. When we stumbled upon them at the farmers market Saturday, I jumped at the chance to take a few home and rekindle the old flame.
I thought I’d dress them up a bit in the hopes of building something a little more lasting this time around. (Luckily, my husband was all for it.) The result was the following recipe for a refreshing fava bean puree, which we had as a main course on homemade whole wheat baguette rounds with 4 different types of pecorino*, alongside a salad of local red leaf lettuce, spring onions, and “sweet slice” cucumbers.
*I am admittedly a bit infatuated with pecorino. (Can it still be considered infatuation if it’s been going on for close to a decade?) When the grocery store was out of my favorite – Santa Teresa Pecorino Sardo (a young pecorino aged 30-40 days) – I picked up a few others just for fun. They were: Pecorino Romano, Fulvi (aged 10-12 months), Pecorino Toscano (slightly younger, aged 6 months), and Cacio de Roma (another young pecorino aged about 30 days). We had a bit of Santa Teresa left in the fridge, so we were able to compare all four. Although Santa Teresa is still my favorite, I thought the 6-month-old pecorino toscano went best with the fava bean puree.
Yield about 32 crostini. Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a light main course.for the bread
1 whole grain baguette or other rustic loaf (about 12 ounces)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
for the puree
14-16 ounces shelled fava beans (1 cup shelled and peeled)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium garlic clove
2 teaspoons fresh mint or fresh basil, chopped
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
4 ounces pecorino (young or aged), thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Slice the bread into ¼- to ½-inch thick diagonal slices. Peel garlic clove and cut in half. Rub cut side of garlic onto the top cut side of each slice. Brush slices with olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet.
Bake for about 5 minutes, until the tops are lightly browned. Set aside.
Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to boil. Add fava beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately submerge beans in ice water until cool. Drain beans and peel off the tough outer layer. (The easiest way to do this is to carefully pinch off the outer layer of one end of the bean and squeeze the opposite end so that the bean pops out.)
In a food processor, combine peeled fava beans, ¼ cup olive oil, garlic, mint or basil, lemon juice and zest, and salt. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor bowl, as needed.
Divide the puree evenly between the slices of bread (about 2-3 teaspoons per slice). Serve topped with a small slice of pecorino.