Warm Spring Vegetable Salad with Favas, Green Beans, Peas, and Radicchio
This dish builds on one of my favorite Italian vegetable combinations, a warm salad of radicchio and blanched peas. I’ve simply taken it several steps further by adding two other spring arrivals, favas and thin green beans. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the vegetables in sequence, transferring them to a bowl of ice water as they finish cooking. The salad is dressed with a cream and lemon vinaigrette, which may sound unusual but is a great match with the vegetables. Please don’t skip the favas-they add a wonderful element in both taste and texture. You can cut down on serving-day preparation time by blanching the vegetables a day ahead. Refrigerate in resealable plastic bags, then assemble the salad just before serving.
Fava beans are usually sold in their large plump pods. You can count on getting ½ to ¼ cup of beans for each pound of fava pods. (If you get more, consider yourself lucky.) Unlike other beans, which have only to be shelled, favas need to be blanched and then peeled, which makes them quite labor-intensive. The only exception to this is very young favas, no larger than, say, navy beans. Personally, I find it soothing to peel them while listening to tango or, opera. The ubiquitous popularity of favas in Mediterranean countries can only be a sign of a saner, slower approach to life. Still, you needn’t commit to listening to the entire production of Aïda to enjoy them. A small portion of favas, with their bright green color and distinctive flavor, makes a welcome component in vegetable stews or one of several ingredients in a pasta sauce.
The Short Blanch
Before you can peel favas, you have to shuck them. Snap the stem end off the pod and peel away the “thread” down one of the seams. You can then snap the pod open by running your thumb along the seam. Shovel the beans out of the open pod with your thumb. The individual beans will still be covered with a thick green membranous skin and need to be blanched to loosen the skin. Blanch the favas in salted boiling water for 1 minute, then plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. After draining the beans, you can either pinch the skin off with your fingers or use a paring knife. I pinch off a piece of the skin near the thick end of the bean, then squeeze from the other and so the fava pops out of the, hole. After the membranes are removed, the favas are ready (at last!) to be treated like any other raw vegetable.
After a few beans, you will, become quite practiced at this technique. I suggest putting on a good tango CD. Your fingers will seem to work by themselves as you imagine yourself spinning across the floor in a Buenos Aires dance hall.
The Long Blanch
The problem with the traditional shuck-blanch-peel method is that afterward you’ve still got to cook them, which means another blanching or braising whatever, I’ve found that you can save yourself a step if you extend the blanching time—in other words, you precook them in their membranes. Although you still need to peel them, they will require little additional cooking. Fava beans vary in size, and large ones take longer to cook than small ones. Let them boil for 3 minutes, then scoop, one out of the water, peel it, and taste. If it no longer tastes raw, they’re done. Plunge them into ice water, then drain and peel. If they’re not done, let them cook for another 30 seconds and try again.
I use the long-blanch method 90 percent of the time when I’m cooking favas. If I’m going to add them to a dish that will then continue to braise for another 8 to 10 minutes, I use the short blanch.
Makes4 side-dish servings
Total Timeunder 2 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Cooking for a date
Recipe Courseantipasto/mezze, appetizer
Dietary Considerationantipasto/mezze, appetizer
Taste and Texturecreamy, herby, tangy, tart
Type of Dishwarm salad
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion (about ½ pound), sliced ¼ inch thick
- 2 large heads radicchio, washed, dried, cored, and cut crosswise into ½-inch-wide strips
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ½ pound thin green beans, trimmed and blanched in boiling salted water until just cooked, about 4 minutes
- ½ pound fresh peas, shelled and blanched until just cooked, 1 to 3 minutes, depending on their size
- 1½ to 2 cups shelled fava beans, long-blanched (see Fava Notes, below), and peeled (about 3 pounds in the pod)
- ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 3 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup light cream
Heat ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Turn the heat to high, add the radicchio, and sear until browned. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the green beans, peas, and favas, and cook until just heated through. Season with salt and pepper and add the parsley and thyme. Remove from the heat and arrange on a platter.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the rosemary, lemon zest, 3 tablespoons lemon juice (if you like tart vinaigrettes, use more), and the remaining ½ cup olive oil. Whisk in the cream. Season with salt and pepper.
Drizzle the vinaigrette over the vegetables and serve. (If you’re going to have leftovers, dress only the portion you are serving, and store the remaining vegetables and vinaigrette separately in the refrigerator.) Serve at room temperature.
2002 Jody Adams and Ken Rivard