Tangy fava spread
This spread with an eastern Mediterranean flavor works equally well as a dip during cocktail hour or as a first course, perhaps with a couple other starters: a salad of tender greens, smoked salmon, or other mezze dishes (see below for suggestions).
It is fine to use frozen fava beans if you can find them. This greatly simplifies the recipe. If using fresh fava beans, also known as broad beans, you will need to buy about four pounds (2 kilos) to obtain 1 pound (450 g.) of shelled beans.
Shelling means removing both the pods and the outer casing of each bean. To remove the outer casings, blanch the beans in boiling water for 30 seconds. Allow to cool. The outer casings will slip off easily.
You can purée the spread using either a hand-held blender (pulser) or a countertop blender, as explained below. You may prefer to measure the olive oil by the spoonful. The amount specified is equivalent to 8 tablespoons.
1 pound (450 g.) shelled uncooked fava beans
1 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 dried cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbsp. shelled sunflower seeds (optional)
fresh mint for garnish
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the sea salt. Add the fava beans and cook until tender — 5 to 6 minutes for frozen beans, 2 minutes for fresh beans. Do not overcook, or they will lose their bright green color.
While the beans are cooking, peel and chop the garlic.
Drain the fava beans. The next step will be to purée them. If using a hand blender, place the beans in a large bowl. If using a countertop blender, place them in the blender container.
Add the chopped garlic and 2 tbsp. of the olive oil to the beans. Add the lemon juice. Add the salt and pepper. Pulse to blend. The mixture will be rather dry at this point.
Now begin stirring in the olive oil by hand. This will lighten the mixture. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil and stir. When well-blended, stir in another 2 tbsp. Repeat with the remaining olive oil.
If using cayenne, crumble the pepper and add. I suggest doing this in a paper towel to protect your hands.
If using sunflower seeds, roast them for five minutes in a medium oven. Stir some into the purée and use the rest for garnish on top.
This spread should be served at room temperature. If you prepare it ahead of time, remove it from the fridge at least one hour before serving. If using as a dip, toast some thin slices of crusty bread and serve alongside. If using as a starter, simply bring a bowlful of the spread to the table. Serves 6-8.
Other Mediterranean-style starters that would marry well with the fava spread include spicy eggplant caviar, spicy Moroccan carrot salad, chick pea salad with cumin and dill, tapenade or crisp goat cheese pastries with rosemary and honey.
This recipe was adapted from a fava bean cream in Petit Larousse des recettes du potager (Larousse, 2008).