Fava beans. Broad beans if you're a Brit. Before I ever tried them I had heard that they were quite the thing. I read a lot of literature that likened them to the first, faintest whiff of early summer, that enthused about their sweet tenderness as if they were a type of vegetable crack. I was completely seduced by the idea of long, leisurely hours spent double-shelling them on a sun-drenched Italian terrace with my nearest and dearest, glasses of crisp white wine and hunks of pecorino at hand.
I couldn't wait to try them. I had already fallen for them, in theory! But, in reality, it was not destined to be love at first sight. Sweet they were not, only unpleasantly musty. They had a solid starchiness that positioned them somewhere between a fresh and dried bean. I guess they weren't completely awful, but they certainly weren't sweeping me off my feet.
Still, I was pretty invested in liking them so I arranged a second date, then a third. I expanded my test group to include the large, twisted pods from Fairway, the tiny ones fresh from the Campus Community Garden that only needed a single-shelling, and everything in between. Yet, despite my best efforts, I remained fairly ambivalent towards them.
I thought that's what we were. Acquaintances, maybe friends, purely platonic either way. Then, last Spring, I noticed a very peculiar thing. First of all, throughout the year I'd been collecting fava bean recipes. I had a whole pile of them. When I saw some in the store I bought them. I brought them home and cooked them. I ate them, to a ho-hum reception, and then, and this is the thing, I did it again. Whenever I had the chance I would do it again - buy, cook and eat 'em. What was going on?
For a vegetable I was supposedly neutral about we were spending a lot of time together. There was the ragout thrown over pasta, a green-tinged panzanella. I ate them raw with cheese and radishes, cooked with bacon and dill.
This year it happened again. I started ear-and-bookmarking broad bean recipes. My compulsion grew stronger than the season and I bought a bag of frozen ones at Fairway. I made quinoa, radish and avocado salad, hot yogurt soup, and marinated mushrooms, all with the help of those favas. Before long I had bought another bag, now long gone and which would have been replaced were I not moving and trying to clear out the freezer.
Where do we stand now, me and the favas? When it's just the two of us, we can't seem to get it together. But throw in a bit of that, and a snatch of this, and it's alright. Somehow a whole mess of things will coalesce into a great, delicious whole. I don't know if I like fava beans but I know I like this:
Marinated Mushrooms with Walnut and Tahini Yogurt
I wouldn't worry too much about acquiring fresh dill and oregano for the final garnish. If you have some great, if not use whatever herbs you have at hand - parsley, cilantro, it'll work just fine.
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
juice of 2 medium lemons (divided use)
salt and black pepper
3 cups sliced button mushrooms
2 cups beech (shimeji) mushrooms, large base removed
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 1/2 tbsp tahini
1 small garlic clove, crushed
3 cups shelled fava beans (frozen or fresh)
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 tbsp chopped oregano
Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, half the lemon juice, about 1/2 tsp salt and some black pepper. Pour this over the mixed mushrooms in a large bowl and toss well, making sure all the mushrooms are coated. Leave to marinate for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix together the yogurt, tahini, garlic, remaining lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt. Use a fork or small whisk to whip everything together to a light paste. (You can refrigerate this sauce for up to one day).
Next, pour plenty of boiling water over the fava beans in a bowl and leave for a minute, then drain well and leave to cool down. Squeeze each bean gently to remove the skin and discard it (if your beans are small or you don't mind the skin you can skip this step).
Add the beans, walnuts, and cumin to the marinated mushrooms and stir well to mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve the mushrooms in small bowls or plates, each portion topped with a dollop of thick tahini sauce and sprinkled with herbs.