So last year, when J and I were visiting San Francisco to determine whether we would move cross country, West Coast Rebecca made a great meal of orichette with anchovy and fava beans. I’ve been loath to eat fava beans because they resemble my much-hated lima beans. I ate them last year and realized I love them. I’m a big fan of peas and fava beans have that springtime freshness of a good pea with a little starchiness. They taste great and ever since having a great pea puree, I have been itching to make a fava bean puree.
Here’s the rub – fava beans are a pain in the ass to prepare. They are not a weeknight supper deal unless you buy them pre-shelled. You see you have to take them out of their pods and THEN blanche them and take their translucent jackets off of them. This cries for a fun day dedicated to fava beans. That’s what J, West Coast Rebecca and I did Saturday. We went to the Allemany Farmer’s Market where we picked up ten pounds of fava beans (which ends of translating into three pounds by the time you’ve shelled them). Along with the fava beans, we got salad greens, sorrel, green garlic and mint.
The menu for the fava bean fest was as follows:
Fava bean puree with sorrel and mint on crostini
Pancetta salad with fava beans and aged balsamic
Ricotta gnocchi with fava beans and green garlic
This was spring time in a plate. Better yet, I am inspired to paint the guest bedroom in our soon to be purchased house fava bean green with chocolate brown accent pillows. The sight of shelled fava beans in a dark brown bowl was stunning. You do have to set up a fava bean meal as a fun, social activity because otherwise, it’s pure drudgery. Between shelling the beans from the pod and then removing their jackets it’s two hours of work. Admittedly, we shelled ten pounds of pods. We could have gotten away with half that amount but if you are going to shell fava beans, you might as well shell a lot of them. I’m still fiddling with the fava bean puree recipe. It had a nice savory flavor but I need to up the herb content to get that springtime freshness (oh god that sounds like a feminine hygiene commercial!).
In the meantime here’s the ricotta gnocchi recipe, happily adapted from epicurious:
• 1 pound (about 2 1/4 cups) fresh ricotta cheese
• 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup all purpose flour
• 1 large egg
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
• 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon salt • Pinch of ground black pepper
• Pinch of nutmeg
• 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 4 stalks of green garlic or green onions; white and pale green parts finely chopped, dark green parts thinly sliced
• ½ cup of fava beans
1/4 cup dry white wine
• Shavings of some nice sharp pecorino
• 4 tablespoons chopped fresh sorrel and mint (any combination)
For gnocchi: Here’s the thing, People are crazy afraid of making the gnocchi heavy but because you are using ricotta instead of potato, you can add a lot more flour. I added two more tablespoons than the recipe called for. This was also because it was a rainy day and the gnocchi really needed the flour. Place ricotta in strainer set over medium bowl. Chill until ricotta has texture of wet clay, at least 1 hour but overnight is awesome. The idea is that you poke the ricotta with your finger and the dimple stays in place. Mix ricotta, 1/2 cup flour, egg, and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough is slightly sticky (the recipe says to not add more than 4 tablespoons full but I added two more and it turned out fine). Cover and chill 30 minutes or up to a day ahead)
Sprinkle rimmed baking sheet generously with flour. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface. Cut into 4 equal pieces. Using hands, roll 1 piece on floured surface into 3/4-inch-wide log. Cut log crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Place gnocchi on prepared baking sheet, spacing apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover gnocchi with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Even better, stick the tray in the freezer and let freeze. It works out fine and it will keep forever.
For sauce: Heat olive oil in large skillet over high heat. Add green garlic; sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add chopped fava beans. Sauté 1 minute. Add wine; stir until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 30 seconds. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Working in 2 batches, add gnocchi to large pot of boiling salted water, stirring to prevent sticking. The key is to get the pot on a low boil as opposed to a vigorous boil. Just bring the water up to a vigorous boil and then turn down to medium. Boil until gnocchi rise to surface of water, then continue boiling until cooked through, 1 minute longer. Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to skillet with the sauce. Add the sorrel and mint. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to plates and sprinkle with additional cheese.