It was once said that Hercules nourished himself on fava beans between physical exertions in order to regain his strength. These ancient varieties of peas have recently gained a resurgence of popularity, but for many centuries in Puglia they were considered the pauper's food. To admit a supper of fava beans was to admit one's beggared position in life.
No longer. Pugliese folk pride themselves on this traditional dish. The bean is grown in abundance and serves as a beautiful ornamental vine as well. Fava beans ripen in the summer and are often eaten fresh, but the recipe for fave e cicorie [chee-core-yay],
the traditional Pugliese dish of favas and chicory greens, requires the use of dried beans. Boiling the dried beans eventually transforms these blanched, pebble like legumes into a thick, creamy puree', much like mashed potatoes. This dish, while posh on some menus, is pure comfort food. And better yet, it's good for you - packed with protein, antioxidants, and fiber.
Fave e cicorie
is easy to prepare. I use Bob's Red Mill Fava Beans
. The beans are good quality, cook well, and are already peeled. An added plus is that there is no need to soak them over night. They'll cook down to a puree in an hour or so. They are also easy to find in grocery stores in our area. If you can't find dried fava beans in a store near you, you can easily order them online.
I also like to mix up the "greens" part. While tradition calls for boiled chicory greens (or closely related dandelion greens), I occasionally like to serve up these beans with milder greens like sauteed spinach with garlic, chard, or even kale. I also like to garnish the dish with other tasty treats like sun dried tomatoes, olives, raw red onion slivers, or artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil.
The final product is a hearty vegetarian/vegan dish which is sure to please the palate and leave you satisfied.
Dried fava beans
Wild bitter greens like chicory, dandelion, collards or other bitter greens (also see variations mentioned above)
Extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Rinse the beans to remove any small stones or pebbles.
Boil the beans in a 1 part fava bean, 3 parts water ratio.
Cover and turn down the heat. After 45 min to an hour the beans will start to break down. Stir frequently so the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pot and burn. If you notice the beans getting too dry before they're fully cooked, add a bit of warm water to maintain a "mashed potatoes" type consistency - too much water and they'll turn soupy, and too little, the beans will burn. Once the beans are soft and easily broken down by the touch of a spoon, either keep stirring until you have a puree', or use a hand held mixer to get a creamy consistency. I like using my hand mixer.
Once pureed cook until you have a consistency which is somewhere in between pudding and mashed potatoes.
Add salt to taste.
While the beans are cooking you can clean the greens and boil them (in the case of wild chicory, etc) or saute them in a teaspoon of olive oil and a couple whole (not chopped) cloves of garlic if you are using softer greens like spinach. When the greens are cooked dress them with extra virgin olive oil and salt to taste.
It's ok to serve these greens at room temperature.The important thing is that the favas be piping hot.
Ladel the favas onto a plate or wide bowl. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Add the greens on top. Garnish with sun dried tomatoes, raw red onion slivers, etc. (see above).
Serve with a hearty red wine like Primitivo or Salice Salentino.