Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where You Bean, Spring?

So the Vernal Equinox knocks today, just two days after snow dusted our mountains, so either Mother Nature is a crazy joker or global warming has spun us all weather we can't begin to predict. Since it's the first day of spring, let's vote for the former, as a sense of humor is what we all might need. Or we might just need some fava beans. We had our first from the Farmers' Market last week, and more than any calendar, their green, so very hard to work for, means spring to me.

That working for it is necessary, starting with the initial shucking from the extravagantly comfy pod. Tearing into them it's easy to imagine what a human-size cocoon of such cushion might be like (if someone could do it stylishly and not turn it into something ShamWow-zable in infomercials). The return from even a half-a-foot-long bean is often a mere 5 "peas"--it's as if they're all agoraphobic and fear being too close. Once you've turned your pound or two of whole beans into a much smaller bowl of just the fruit, as it were, you still aren't done. For now you need to parboil those, let them cool a bit (but you will get impatient and start before they're easily handled), and slide the waxy coating off, sadly often having the bean split into its two sides and lose its perfection. But this is about taste and not pretty, although the jade of a fava bean is a green to behold.

At this point, you can prepare them as you'd like, but notice you're committed to these beans, so much smaller and so fussed over since you began. Spring takes preparation, patience, often a paring away.

They will reward you simply, now. Butter, any herb you like, perhaps some shallot or leek (they are too delicate for onion or garlic, really), salt and pepper. You can let them get brown and crunchy if you like that, or leave them rich and succulent or do a bit a both. They are a side, fine to mix with pasta (and maybe some pan-fried oyster mushrooms), and of course you can puree them and set all sorts of goodness atop, say a perfect piece of salmon.

Spring has sprung on your plate, yes, but it made you wait. And was worth it.

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