Sunday, June 26, 2005

The mysterious fava

One of the signs of early summer at the vegetable market is fava beans. They look a bit like limas and come in big, soft, downy pods. Once you release the beans from the pod, the light green outer hull (which is bitter) has to be peeled to reveal the darker green bean inside. (It's important to get fresh local beans, as tired favas can be dull or bitter all the way through.)

Where I lived in Italy (Genoa), the spring favas were shelled, peeled and eaten at the table with coarse dried salame, cut into chunks, accompanied by a robust olive oil and bread.

Dolce Vita, a website on Italian travel, describes several ways to enjoy fresh fava beans. They don't mention the Genoese style, but they describe a Tuscan presentation, using thin shavings of parmesan in stead of salame, that's similar.

Before the "discovery" of the Americas, favas were the only beans available in Europe. A small percentage of people of Mediterranean ancestry have a condition (G6PD deficiency) which can cause them to have an unpleasant, even dangerous, reaction (called hemolytic anemia) when the eat favas, so I remain a little reluctant to feed them to guests.

I bought favas at the Ballard Farmers Market this morning and we had them at dinner. They were delicious, and Zorg seems none the worse for the exposure. Bon apetito!

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