Now that it is officially springtime (Paris in the spring being more cloudy and rainy than not, so far), new fruits and vegetables are beginning to show up at the market. The pumpkins, oranges, and pears are slowly but surely being replaced by peas, spring onions, and Garriguettes (amazingly fragrant French strawberries). Nearly every stand at the market is now carrying fava beans, which I thought would make a perfect meat-free dinner for Good Friday. To say that fava beans are time-consuming to prepare is true, but misses the point. If you have some good music or good company, the time spent shelling and peeling goes by quickly, and the reward is totally worth it.
First you have to take the beans out of their pods, which have a foamy padding on the inside to protect the fragile beans – looks comfy! From these pods, I ended up with this many beans:
They look ready to cook at this point, but no, each bean must be stripped of its bitter, pale green skin. This task is made a little easier by blanching the beans first. I got a large pot of water boiling and added the beans. After a minute or two (just long enough to soften and loosen the skins a bit) I drained them and ran them under cold water to stop the cooking and cool them off enough to handle. Then I began peeling. It may seem to be a tedious task, but I didn’t mind, I just kept my iPod rocking and my eyes on the prize. And here they are, all ready to go, for real this time:
Because it takes so much time to get so few usable beans, I decided to stretch them out in a pasta dish with tomatoes and goat cheese. I boiled some pasta and added the favas for the last couple minutes to heat them through. After draining I returned the pasta and beans to the pot and gently stirred in some halved cherry tomatoes and crumbled fresh goat cheese. This needs something else, I thought, but what? Then I remembered how the mint at the market smelled so delicious that I had to buy it – if mint and peas are a match made in heaven, why not fava beans? Into the pot went the freshly chopped mint, along with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and freshly ground pepper.
Other than the fava bean prep, this was a really quick meal to put together. As predicted, the mint and fava beans complemented each other beautifully, with the goat cheese and tomatoes lending their support in a non-scene-stealing way. I make variations of this dish all summer long, and I love the way the goat cheese melts and coats the pasta with a tangy, creamy sauce. And it was nice to have something light before our upcoming Easter gluttony-fest. (Don’t worry, you’ll see.)