You know it’s really spring when fava beans show up at the market. Fava beans are ancient plants that scientists believe have been cultivated since at least as far back as 6000 B.C. Often called a broad bean, the legume is more pea than bean. It is still grown today for food and as a cover crop to prevent erosion and help return nitrogen to the soil.
I love throwing handfuls of the funky green pods into the center of a table of friends. We shuck and eat them raw in between sips of prosecco.
In my neck of the woods, farmers are bringing bushels of the bright green plants with pods, leaves, flowers and all to the market. Chef Michael Fiorelli of Love & Salt recommends tossing tender freshly shelled beans with olive oil, lemon juice and salt before eating them raw on ricotta toast. Watch out avocados, you’ve got some stiff competition.
Chef Michael Fiorelli’s fava bean ricotta toast
Yield: Serves 4
3 tbsps olive oil, divided
4 thick-cut slices crusty ciabatta bread
½ cup ricotta
½ cup young fava beans, shelled
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1 tbsp + 1 tsp preserved lemon, chopped (recipe follows below)
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the toast: Preheat oven to 400ºF degrees. Arrange the ciabatta on a baking sheet and drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the slices of bread. Transfer them to the oven for about 5 to 7 minutes (flipping once) until they just start to toast and turn golden. Remove the ciabatta from the oven.
Spread 2 tablespoons of ricotta over each ciabatta slice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
For the fava beans: In a small bowl, combine the fava beans with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and lemon juice. Toss and season with salt, to taste.
To assemble: Distribute the fava bean salad evenly and spoon it over the toast that is spread with ricotta. Garnish each with 1 teaspoon of preserved lemon. Coarsely grate a liberal amount of the Parmigiano-Reggiano over each. Finish with freshly ground pepper, to taste.
Whole lemons, sliced cross-wise
A clean plastic or glass container with a lid
Prepare the lemons: Wash and slice the lemons into thin rounds. Lay the rounds out on a sheet tray and sprinkle them with equal parts salt and sugar, using enough to cover them. Arrange the lemon rounds in layers in a clean glass or plastic container. Cover the rounds with olive oil.
To store: Transfer to the refrigerator and allow to preserve for 2 weeks.
Recipes courtesy of Chef Michael Fiorelli, Love & Salt