I’ve been going a little hog-wild on the summer vegetables.
Well, not quite as much as I’d like — I still can’t choke down $5.99 a pound tomatoes, beautiful as they may be. Just a hint of mealy and I’ll feel guilty even looking at my wallet.
But fava beans, totally different story. I’ve enjoyed fava beans for ages partly as one of those delicacies you rarely toy with at home but love to order in little locavore-oriented restaurants along with your farm-raised whatever and a much-deserved glass of wine.
Anyway, I got over the precious factor and fell madly, deeply in love the day we arrived with Erminio for our annual visit to Davide’s fattoria in Panzano, in the Chianti. Yeah, I know, and it gets better. It was a beautiful day, and quiet, with only a few wine tourists arriving for lunch, a light mist over the vineyard (I am not kidding), and I was hungry, nearly salivating in anticipation of Davide’s mom’s grigliata or pappardelle con cinghiale. Or both. God.
Then here comes Mom herself, strolling out of the garden with a cheery ciao! and a basket full of fave, just picked, young, pert, so, so fresh.
Needless to say, we ate them all.
The second time I fell madly in love occurred only a few days later. (You can fall madly in love twice. It was in Italy, for god’s sake!) Dinner at Lino’s, always brilliant. Lino is a joker, but he does not fuck around with the food. I spoke bad Italian with Noriko, who’s been hiding out in Lino’s restaurant for years, learning Italian and very little English, cooking and serving, and refusing to return to her family in Japan.
We finished dinner and were relaxing with the rest of our wine as the last real customers trickled out when Lino sat down with a huge bowl of shelled but unpeeled fresh fava beans, chunks of crystally pecorino (a rare pleasure, as Erminio prefers the fresh and far milder cheeses), and a bottle of unmarked, weeks-old olive oil.
There is no better finish to a meal. I nearly cried.
So the fava beans are sort of near to my heart, and with their short, short season, I can’t help myself when I pass the bean and artichoke people at the market. Yes, they’re still $4.99 a pound, and yep, a pound of favas in their pods equals about four tablespoons of shelled and peeled beans (and yes, preparing them does take an ungodly 20 minutes or so), but I love them.
And I’m worth it.
So tonight, in honor of me, a play (courtesy of Biba Caggiano) on bucatini alla gricia, with bacon in lieu of guanciale, spaghetti in favor of the very difficult to eat gracefully bucatini.
How to make it? Put your water on and shell the beans (a couple of pounds). When you’re done shelling, the water will have boiled, so you can blanch the beans quickly, which will make peeling easier. Pop them out of their skins while the water returns to a boil. Now chop up an onion and a few strips of bacon, then cook ‘em up in that order in some olive oil. At the same time, start cooking your spaghetti.
When your onion is sweet and soft, and your bacon is near-crisp, add the peeled beans, the zest of a lemon (my addition), and lots of black pepper and stir it around for a minute. Add the cooked pasta with a little of its cooking water, toss with a large pile of freshly grated Parmigiano or Pecorino Romano, and you’re done. It doesn’t quite take me back to the farm, but it’ll do for now.