Recipe: Warm Fava Shallot Couscous
Berkshire native Alana Chernila, mother of two, and author of the cookbook, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making (Clarkson Potter), dispenses change and cooking ideas to readers and friends. She shares her peak-of-the-season recipes with Rural Intelligence to help us make the most of what’s growing in our region. Her first cookbook has achieved top-seller status, and Chernila has just announced that she has a new one in the works; tentatively named “Meals from the Homemade Pantry,” due out in 2015.
Every year, I grow a line of favas, and they produce enough beans for one meal. Mostly, I grow them because I love to watch the process. First, the long, thick stalk, then the strange black and white flowers that look like insects, and then the pods, leathery outside and furry inside, sticking out at all awkward angles as if they just can’t quite contain themselves. They lack the graceful twirl of the pea plant and the striking teepee of the pole bean. But because they are favas (and someone who knows has taught me to say favas and not fava beans, as the latter is redundant, like cornbread bread), they get away with all of their awkwardness, disturbing beauty, and total lack of efficiency when it comes to how much food they create.
A few months back, I bought a cookbook called Ripe: A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables. I bought it because I had quietly fallen in love with its author, who writes a blog called 5 Second Rule. If you don’t read Cheryl Sterman’s site, I’ll make the gentle suggestion that you make room in your heart for one more food blog. Start here if you need convincing.
Cheryl teamed up with a photographer, Paulette Phlipot, and together they created what I can only describe as a perfect love letter to living food—to juice and crunch and color and everything else that makes fruits and vegetables so exciting to discover, grow, cook, and most of all, eat. And so I felt that when I finally shared this book with you, it should be in the context of this vegetable that I grow, not for its prolific nature or its usefulness in the kitchen, but because it is strange and outstandingly delicious, and because even though every year I grow exactly enough for one meal, I will continue to do so because this vegetable deserves love and celebration. Also, it deserves couscous.
Favas have a bad reputation because they first must be shelled and then shelled again, but the inner greenness that you get (especially when it’s a fresh grown and gathered in your skirt fava) is worth every step. I made this recipe with the feta and toasted pistachio addition, and I’ll dream about it until I make it again… next year. And yes, you can buy your favas. But some day, I’d throw a few of these seeds in the ground, if only to watch them grow.
Warm Fava Shallot Couscous
from Ripe: A Fresh Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables by Cheryl Sterman Rule (with photography by Paulette Phlipot)
From Cheryl: With green favas, pearly couscous, and sweet shallots, this warming sauté is both comforting and light. (To make it more entrée-like, toss in some feta and toasted pistachios.) Buy the freshest favas you can find, as older beans can be starchy.
(Serves 4 as a side)
1 1/2 pounds fresh fava beans (in-pod weight)
1 cup Israeli (sometimes called pearl) couscous
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large shallot or 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, sliced
1 lemon, zest removed in long squiggly strips, juice squeezed into a small bowl
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Crack the fava pods and squeeze the beans into a bowl. Rinse. Boil the beans for 2 minutes; then remove with a slotted spoon to a colander and rinse again to cool. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the couscous to the same pot and boil until al dente, about 5 minutes, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. Drain; rinse briefly to prevent clumping.
While the couscous cooks, use your thumbnail to pierce each fava’s outer shell. Squeeze the dark green inner beans into a bowl; discard the shells.
In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat until almost shimmering. Add the shallots, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a grinding of black pepper. Sauté until the shallots are golden brown and starting to crisp, 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Reduce the heat to very low, add the favas, and stir until warm and glossy, 3 to 5 minutes longer. Test one bean; it should be tender.
Add the couscous to the favas along with the olives and some of the lemon juice, to taste; stir until hot. Adjust the salt and pepper. Garnish with the mint and lemon zest.
Tip: Consider preparing this dish with a friend. It’s nice to have company when you shuck the favas, as this can take a bit of time.
Reprinted with permission from Eatingfromthegroundup.com. All text and photos copyright 2008-13 by Alana Chernila.