Tuesday, July 05, 2011
Farm Bulletin: Challenging Convention
Contributor Anthony Boutard of Ayers Creek Farm is not afraid to look culinary canvention in the eye and challenge it to a staring contest. This bulletin takes on the notion that shelling fresh fava beans is the only proper way to prepare them. You will find him and his wife Carol at the Hillsdale Farmers' Market every Sunday from 10 am-2 pm.
The American food establishment has deemed that favas are edible only when the seeds are peeled. In our experience shelling the beans raw, then blanching and peeling the seeds is tedious and unnecessary, and robs this amazing vetch of much of its flavor, nutritional value and fiber. Worse yet, a simple, hearty staple has become a fussy, special occasion food, and a daunting one at that.
The best way to prepare favas for everyday use is to bring a large pot of water to the boil, add a handful of salt, a quarter cup or so, and then throw the whole pods into the water. Cook them for about 12 minutes, until the pods are limp. Drain and leave to cool for 20 minutes, or until they are comfortable to shell. A gentle squeeze and the seeds will slip out of the pod. Favas cooked in this manner are free of bitterness and strong flavors. The combination of the heavily salted water and cooking the seeds in the pod makes skin of the bean nutty flavored, and the fresh favas become a much more satisfying dish than the naked cotyledons touted in the food magazines.
These fresh favas can be sauteed with some garlic and olive oil. Our friend Katherine Deumling, a happy convert to this method of preparing fresh favas, has a recipe for favas in yogurt, a very traditional way of serving them. For this year's farm field day, we prepared a ful made from a combination of fresh and dried favas, along with some chickpeas. The ful was seasoned with some olive oil, lemon, garlic and cumin.
We must credit Mimi Serafi, the mother of our sister-in-law Shirin, who taught us this simple Persian approach to cooking favas. It works and has improved our life. Can't ask more than that.