Vail Simply Seasonal column: Fleeting favas
Walking through Restaurant Avondale’s kitchen, I spotted some oversized, bumpy, long green beans. I hadn’t seen these in my local grocery store – and they looked like they came right from Jack and the Beanstalk. Intrigued, I asked chef Jeremy Kittelson to enlighten me.Fava beans have been eaten for centuries in Mediterranean countries, especially Italy and Greece, and are actually a relative of the pea. Favas ripen in the spring and have a fleeting season, usually six weeks during April and May.Known for their creamy, buttery texture and slight nuttiness, fava beans offer a wealth of fiber and iron, with no fat or cholesterol. The flavorful creaminess and nutritious benefits make favas a great choice for those wishing to increase the number of veggies in their diet.”But there’s a catch,” Kittelson said, “preparing fava beans is a commitment most people are not willing to make to a bean.” The fresh beans must be removed from their tough exterior pods. When you slice the pod open, each bean is encased in a fluffy, cotton-batting-like fiber. Pull each bean out and place them in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then individually slip each green fava from its white outer skin. Two pounds of raw fava beans in the pod yields about one cup ready to eat.”Alternatively, you can grill the whole pods after tossing with seasonings, then using your hands, tear out the beans. The flavor is great, prep time reduced, but this is recommended for a casual, outdoor meal. Maybe barbecue, corn on the cob, grilled favas and plenty of napkins.” Or get in the spirit of Italy – gather family or friends around the table, share stories and laughs while everyone pitches in to shell and prepare one of spring’s tasty treats.Fava bean dip1 cup shelled fresh fava beans1 teaspoon tarragon 1 clove garlic 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper1 teaspoon ground cumin Juice of one lemon1/3 cup extra virgin olive oilSalt, to tasteAfter shelling beans, boil about 7-10 minutes, then remove white skin. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend to a smooth paste. If too thick, add a little more oil, lemon juice or water to desired consistency. Serve with toasted baguette slices. Pasta with fresh fava beans, ricotta and mint2 pounds unshelled fava beans (about 1 cup shelled) 1 pound uncooked shell pasta1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil3/4 teaspoon salt1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup fresh mint, chiffonade 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepperMint sprigs for garnishRemove fava beans from pods; discard pods. Cook beans in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and immerse beans into ice water; drain again. Remove tough outer skins from beans; discard skins. Set beans aside. Cook pasta and drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Place pasta in a large bowl; add oil and salt. Toss well. Whisk the 1 cup reserved pasta water and ricotta cheese, then fold in Parmesan cheese, chopped mint, and pepper. Add beans and cheese mixture to pasta; toss to combine. Garnish with mint sprigs. Serves 6 as a side dish.Grilled fava beans1 pound of fresh fava beans, in pods1/4 cup extra virgin olive oilA few pinches of sea salt1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakesZest of 1 lemonChopped fresh herbs (parsley, tarragon and chives)In a large bowl toss the fava bean pods with olive oil and salt. Arrange them in a single layer on a grill over medium-high heat. Grill until blistered on one side – 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and grill for a few minutes more on the other side. If you aren’t sure when to pull them off, take a pod off the grill, open and taste one of the beans. You want the fava beans to be smooth and creamy when you pop them out of their skins – not undercooked. Season the grilled fava bean pods with a bit more salt, red pepper flakes, herbs and lemon. To eat: tear open the puffy green pods, take a fava bean, pinch the skin and slide the bright green fava from its skin. Serves 2 – 4.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur (www.larkspurvail.com), at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale (www.avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa and features a West Coast-inspired, market-driven menu.