Monday, April 16, 2012
Sometimes the best things to eat are the simplest. Good bread and great olive oil. The perfect steak, simply grilled. An August tomato, sliced with just a bit of salt.
You know what I’m talking about.
One of my favorite recipes - if you can even call these types of dishes recipes - comes from Puglia: fave e cicoria. Fava beans and chicory.
That’s it. Just fava beans and fresh chicory.
The fava beans are the dried kind, cooked until they form a velvety puree. The chicory is just boiled in salted water.
The idea of mixing bitter greens with an earthy starch is a great one. And I guess you could work similar magic with other legumes and leaves. But since I had a kilo of fave I’d picked up in Basilicata, and fresh chicory from my garden in Todi, the recipe kind of made itself.
The magic comes when the bland and the bitter come together. Half a plate of thick and starchy fave puree. Half a plate of bitter chicory. A bit of salt, a healthy drizzle of fruity olive oil and you’ve got a dish full of what every self respecting Pugliese calls heaven.
Fave e Cicoria
Fava beans and Chicory
(serves 4 as main course)
1 1/5 kilos of chicory greens
2 cups dried fave beans (not fresh fave, but dried)
Place the fave beans in a bowl of water and soak for six hours.
Drain beans and place in pot, and add water enough to come about a half inch over the beans. Add 1 tsp of salt and bring to simmer. Let simmer, undisturbed, until the beans are mushy/tender. Don’t be tempted to stir them up. You want most of the water to be absorbed, but most of what's not absorbed should evaporate. By the end you should have just enough liquid in the pan to help the beans become mush. Using a wooden spoon, only then do you stir things up, mashing and mushing into a rough puree.
*Note: do not do this ahead of time, because the fave puree tends to solidify, sort of like polenta. If you do decide to make it ahead of time, you'll have to thin it out with a bit more water. The consistency should be (more or less) like mashed potatoes.
In the meantime bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add chicory and cook until done, about 15 minutes. Drain.
To serve, fill each individual plate with half chicory and half fava puree. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Serve with crusty bread, and enjoy.