A Midsummer Day's Dream

Having been gone the last two Saturdays, I was dying to get to the Farmer's market to see what was new and what I had been missing. Yes, even as Loving Boyfriend and I headed off to Bend, OR to become engaged two weekends ago (unbeknownst to me at the time), I was staring wistfully out the window and wondering what might be coming out at the market while I was driving far away and in the opposite direction. You can imagine me...hands spread out with my palms against the window, eyes opened wide and longing to know what was happening as we sped by the market, just beginning to set up their tents. It was almost heart-breaking.

So this weekend, there was no way I was not going to go. I convinced my friend K., who had never been, to go with me and subjected her to my shameless produce weakness. First, a stop by the ATM to get out a little extra money. Usually, all I allow myself is a $20 bill to get me through the farmer's market and make my purchases - this is the best way I can force myself to budget given all the gorgeous produce calling my name out from the stands and knowing that being at a farmer's market on a budget is a bit like letting my inner child out in a candy store and telling her she can only pick one thing. Not having gone for 2 weeks, I felt I could justify an extra $20 and just let myself go crazy.

We floated through the aisles, checking out the produce, looking at prices and of course, stopping by Freeman's booth to see what delicously rare goodies he had this week. Among the produce that had arrived while I was gone were the first early summer, vine- and sun-ripened tomatoes. Also newly arrived to my eyes were summer pears (I had no idea there was such a thing, but of course, I bought some), sour pie cherries, English shelling peas, a few early figs and gloriously bright purple gooseberries. Freeman also had several unique berries, including more red currants, black currants (which make a truly exquisite jam) and josta berries (a cross between a black currant and a gooseberry), which were also quite tasty (Freeman always offers his patrons a taste of his unique hand-gathered fruits).

I made my rounds, picking up anything that piqued my fancy or looked incredibly fresh and bursting with that sun-ripened smell. I piled my bags up with mint, tomatoes, cherries, new potatoes, purple gooseberries (which were promptly turned into fabulously light-tasting custard tarts on Sunday), black currants, Italian runner beans, and more. The fava beans, however, were also looking especially shiny, heavy in their pods, and priced quite reasonably, so I also reserved a special place in my bag, and my budget, for them.

Some people prefer to stay away from fava beans, touting the difficulty in actually getting the beans out of their pods, and then again out of the tough shell that surrounds the individual beans, as their excuse. I actually find it rather theraputic... Sitting down with an empty paper bag in front of me, a large bowl for the beans in their pods and another smaller one for the beans themselves, I could spend an hour immersing myself completely in the gentle labor involved. It reminds me of when I was younger and everyone would sit together as a family and "snap" freshly picked green beans from the garden for dinner - popping off the ends and then snapping them in the middle.

For fava beans, I crack the end of the pod where it was once connected to the complete plant, pulling the string that runs like a vein along the side of the pod. This leaves an opening where I can then run my finger along the inside of each pod and scoop the beans out into my bowl. Before I begin, I start a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath, so that once all of my beans are freed from their pods, I can toss the contents of the entire bowl in the bubbling water to blanch them, drain them after only a minute, and put them in the ice bath. This blanching technique makes easy work of the inner bean's shells. Some people pinch alongside where the bean was connected in the pod; I find it much easier to lightly grab the opposite side and rip a small whole in the bean shell before pinching it to release the bean. The favas are then ready for any dressing up you'd like to do.

My favorite way to eat fava beans is how Ilva, at Lucullian Delights, makes hers...raw, with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, freshly cracked black pepper, and large chunks of tangy pecorino cheese. But I had seen another recipe in Fresh from the Farmer's Market, a cookbook by Janet Fletcher that had caught my eye. For those of you in Eugene, she's demonstrating a cooking class at Cooks, Pots and Tabletops on July 19th (that would be on Wednesday!). Remember when you're choosing fava beans to get enough so that you'll have enough shelled beans for any recipe you want to try. This recipe took about 1-1 1/2 pounds of the beans from the market, to end up with about 1 cup of shelled beans to work with, and although it's similar to hers, I've changed things up a bit.

Warmed curly endive and fava bean salad, adapted from:
Fresh From the Farmer's Market
Serves 2.

1 - 1 1/2 lb. fresh fava beans, to end up with approximately 1 cup of shelled beans
1 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 thin slices of pancetta, sliced thinly into 1/4" pieces
1 large shallot, minced
4-5 large leaves of curly endive, with stalks
salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Prepare the fava beans as described above until you have removed the beans from both the pod and their inner shell. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a saute pan until hot, then add the pancetta and fry until it begins to render its fat and becomes crisp (about 5 minutes). Add the minced shallot and cook one minute or until tender. Cut the very tops of the leaves off the curly endive - they tend to be tough, then cut the entire stalk and remainder of leaves into small pieces. Place endive into a large bowl, then mix with the pancetta and salad and any oil that remains in the pan. Add the prepared fava beans, and toss these with the salad. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

14 comments from you:

vlb5757 said...

I have never eaten a fava bean. I am not even sure if you can get them here. Now I will have to make a quick dash to the Farmers Market on Saturday before going to work. You are killing my food budget. lol!

Nerissa said...

Hmmm... I don't think I've had fava beans either. My family was never very adventurous in food (read 'British').

You know, I've been trying to persuade my f-i-l 2B to take me to the nearby farmer's market (far too far to walk to) but he's been giving me the polite run-around about it. I ask Da Frog about it and he told me that Frog-in-Law finds them crowded and too expensive. He much prefers the supermarket (hypermarché) to which we go .

cookiecrumb said...

Very dreamy. How nice of you to take a market novice with you on your binge.
It's interesting to read about your "terroir": favas are long gone in the Bay Area, for instance, and I've never seen a local gooseberry or red currants (though I'm told they exist).
Ah, but I DO have a sack of English peas that need shelling today!

Natalia said...

Sounds like you had fun at the market! I do the same thing. I'm only allowed to take about $20, more or less, or I'd buy everything there.

Ever since you left that comment about black currant jam on my site, and now again that you're reccomending it here, I've been dying for the recipe. Care to share?

Julie said...

I just bought my first fava beans this spring. I paid $4 for a pint box which yielded about two tablespoons of beans. When I realized the per pound cost worked out to more than jumbo lump crabmeat or any number of other highly expensive goods I decided to wait and try to grow these in my garden plot this fall.

I hope I'm successful because I'd love to try this salad.

BTW, that is a particularly great photograph.

michelle said...

Vickie - ha ha, like every other food blogger out there hasn't damaged your food budget too (and my own!). I don't know if there are favas out there either, I had never heard of them until I moved to California and got them in my CSA box - let me know! They're sort of a buttery, mild-tasting bean.

Nerissa - Oh no! I hope you are able to visit at least one market while you are there. I have heard so many stories about markets in Europe. My family never ate favas either - I had never had them until about 5 years ago when they came in a CSA box in CA.

Cookiecrumb, I love hearing about what's in the markets at other places - for instance, there is only one vendor that has shelling peas here and they're often difficult to come by fresh. I do miss the year-round farmer's market in Monterey though! I do feel lucky with all the different kinds of berries we can get up here.

Natalia, I'll see what I can do! I think this batch is going for sorbet though, but I'll post that one too.

Julie, yikes! That's ridiculous! I just paid $1.75/lb! Best wishes that your garden grows swiftly, stays healthy, and leaves you with lots and lots of produce! (I lost my whole garden last year to deer!)

Tanna said...

Gentle labor indeed. What a beautiful way to go about it, it is gentle.
Beautiful salad. I've never found fresh favas. I'll keep looking.

michelle said...

Thanks for visiting my little blog, and for the compliments. I had never seen fresh favas until I moved to California, but they truly are wonderful if you can find them. Although I bet edamame would be a wonderful substitute in this salad.

J said...

hi michelle, i adore favas and am constantly looking for new excuses (read: recipes) to use them; thanks so much for sharing the recipe. this salad looks lovely!

Dianne said...

Wow! Michelle! I'm going to try this! It sounds and looks yummy! I very rarely use fava (broad) beans, strange, because they are in very plentifull supply here!


cookiecrumb said...

Off topic: Congratulations on your newfound fame in the Eugene Weekly!! Nice one.

(And thanks for the ink! Yikes!)

michelle said...

J, me too! Favas really are wonderful. The original recipe used frisee, so I'm sure that would be wonderful as well, or a combination of different, similar-tasting greens.

Cookiecrumb, why thank you! I've been waiting for the article to come out because now my little secret is out to all the people I work with now! Yikes, indeed! And you're welcome for the link...it's all true!

Paz said...

I've never had fava beans before and I've been wanting to have some since Ilva's recipe post and now yours. I'm going to have to go out on a mission and buy some!

I'm a bit late: But congratulations on your recent engagement! Wonderful news!

Also congratulations on your article interview. Very nice article about you and your blog, as well as your fellow blogger Jocelyn.


michelle said...

Hi Paz, Thanks for the congratulatory wishes! Do find some favas- you don't know what you're missing until you've tried them, and you won't go without again!