I can’t remember if I’ve ever written a love song to favas on this blog. I mean, I’ve written about them, but I probably haven’t sung their praises as much as they deserve. Starting in late May, I bother the farmers at my local market every Sunday, trying to subtly nudge them to pick their favas as soon as they’re ready so I can dig in. The first few weeks, I’m met with transparently frustrated replies of “they’re not ready, lady!” but around the second week in June, out they come. From them on, you’ll find me and my tote bags by the fava bin. That’s right.
Favas come double-wrapped, so to speak; they’re tucked in a waxy coating that’s nestled inside a pod. To eat favas, you pop open the pods, scoop out and blanch the beans, and then remove the outer shell. Work intensive? Yea, but you won’t find me complainin’. Favas are sweet and green and, with a little salt and not much else, the delicious essence of early summer.
While I usually just toss my favas in a salad or mix them with some pasta and other vegetables, I also really like fava bean spread. Mine is smooth enough to spread but still quite chunky, and laced with a whole lot of garlic and a squeeze of lemon. If I don’t finish it all before using it, I’ll spread it on a baguette and eat it just so. Or, if I’m really feelin’ it, I’ll top my bruschetta with some vinegar-and-oil-cured sardine fillets. The idea came to me from an Epicurious recipe for cannellini and sardine bruschetta. I love cannellini, but I don’t stock my pantry with dry or canned beans when fresh ones are so readily available during the summer, so I subbed in favas for the cannellini the recipe called for. The combination worked perfectly: the headiness of the garlicy fava spread stood up well to the sardines, which added just the right amount of richness and tang. Toasted baguette, more than a vehicle, was crunchy and light, a fine contrast for the favas and sardines perched atop it. I finished off the bruschetta simply, with a bit of olive oil and a grind of the pepper mill. It didn’t need much else.
The fact that I’ve managed to get this far without begging ya’ll not to hate sardines is a testament only to how silly I think sardine-squeamishness really is. Sardines are awesome; their flavor is strong and pungent, they’re a bit oily and somewhat tangy, they’re packed with omega-3s, and really, they’re delicious. If you hate’em, be that way. If not, welcome to my club. Enjoy your stay. Want some sardine and fava bean bruschetta?
Sardine and Fava Bean Bruschetta
inspired by a recipe from Gourmet
1/4 lb. sardines, oil-packed or salt-packed are fine (if salt packed, be sure to rinse thoroughly)
(1 tin sardines will be plenty)
4 lbs. fava beans, shelled, blanched, and peeled (see here for instructions)
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper
Slice baguette on sharp bias into 1 3/4-inch slices and set aside. On a cutting board, chop garlic into small pieces. Add a sprinkle of salt; using a very sharp knife, drag the blade toward you across the garlic, mashing it and the salt with the side of your knife. Keep dragging and regathering the garlic until it resembles a pretty smooth paste. Add favas. Continue this motion until favas have been pretty mashed with the garlic, and the whole thing looks smooth enough to spread but still fairly chunky. Scoop up and put into a medium sized bowl. Add salt and lemon juice and mash up with a fork to incorporate. Add salt to taste.
Toast baguettes until golden. Cool five minutes on a rack, then plate and spread with some of the fava spread. Top with 2 fillets of sardines, a glug of olive oil, and a grind of the pepper mill. Serve just so.