Those who know me well know that I have a terrible memory. I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times I have bought a book that I have already read. But a bad memory can be a blessing as well as a curse. As my clever aunt once said, "The great thing about having a bad memory is that you can have the same great experiences over and over again and always feel like you are discovering something new." The bad memories fade more quickly for me, too.
When it comes to food, though, it's another story. I can remember what I ate on vacation in Italy 12 years ago, which is before we had kids, and some days I cannot even remember what it feels like not to have kids.
So when I gave in to my farmers' market compulsion and bought fava beans last weekend, something was tickling my memory about grilling them. I love the nutty flavor and substantial texture of fava beans, but unless you have an afternoon to kill (and if you do, it can be quite pleasant), then they take a long time to prepare. I normally prepare them by first removing the beans from the pods, blanching them, and then removing them from their inner skins.
When I finally figured out what was nagging at me, I realized that it was this post on 101 cookbooks about grilling fava beans. Aside from the flavor that grilling adds to the beans, grilled fava beans are served at the table in their pods so that everyone shares in the peeling. And the eating, of course. Plunk a pile of these fava beans down on the table, and you have a communal activity, an appetizer that is perfect to linger over.
You could toss these fava beans with anything that appeals to you, even just adding sea salt and olive oil would do nicely. We have tried them two ways, with pepper and pecorino,and a bit of parsley thrown in for freshness, and with mint and cumin. They were quite different, but I think the pecorino version was the slight winner. The cheese has such a sharp tang that it was delicious with the mellow flavor of the fava beans.
I wish I could tell you that our children were enthusiastic about trying these and loved them, but only Olivia liked them. The other two wrinkled their noses, and after a small nibble, Oscar even made a few retching noises just so I would know how much he despised them.
Ah, well. More for us.
Serves 6 as an appetizer
5 minutes preparation time
15 minutes grilling time
1 quart fava beans
a splash of olive oil
a sprinkle of sea salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1/2 cup pecorino Romano
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
Heat a grill to medium heat.
Toss the fava beans with the olive oil and salt. When the grill is hot, add the fava beans and cook them until they are partially charred on the outside, about 7 or 8 minutes on each side.
While the fava beans are cooking, mix together the pepper, cheese, and parsley in a medium-sized bowl. When the fava beans are done, toss them in the bowl with the cheese mixture and stir to coat the mixture evenly on the pods. Serve immediately.
To eat, remove the beans from the pods. If the beans inside are small, they may be tasty just as they are. Otherwise, remove the thin pale green skin on the outside of the bean. Be sure to lick your fingers as they get coated with the cheese mixture.