I am much happier when I feel that my living space is clean and organized than when it is disorderly. I like my bathtub gleaming, my carpets vacuumed, my surfaces free from clutter and my laundry hamper empty. But most importantly, I like my pantry, refrigerator and freezer to be not only clean but also well-stocked. And by well-stocked I mean prepared to feed me and whoever else might be stopping by well during the week ahead.
So when I return from traveling, no matter how clean I have left my apartment before my departure, I always feel that work needs to be done in the kitchen. Of course my staples must be replenished (eggs to poach for breakfast, good butter for my toast and milk for my daily cup of PG Tips), but I never feel like my house is completely in order until I've been to the Greenmarket and gathered some of the latest season's bounty.
This past Saturday may have represented the beginning of the zenith of summer as far as fruit and vegetables are concerned. For those in New York who are not familiar with the glory that is the Union Square Greenmarket, I simply must insist that you go next Saturday and purchase peaches from Oakgrove Plantation's stand at the northern end of the square and dark cherries from The Cheerful Cherry on the western side of the square. Once you eat them, you will have found bliss.
Perhaps less sexy but just as special as summer fruit are the summer vegetables. And last Saturday it was the ephemeral fava beans that were the object of my affection.
Fava beans are spectacularly labor intensive to cook with, but I love their vaguely grassy, delicate flavor so much that I can overlook the extra work. They strike me as somewhat rich tasting, or as rich perhaps as a bean can be, and in that there is something luxurious. And as the season is so short, I'm happy to put up with the finicky preparation for as long as the favas are around.
In the past I've always seen them in salads or succotash, both of which are wonderful ways to showcase the favas. However, as the beans themselves are a fair amount of work I'm always looking for low effort recipes in which to employ them. Smashing them up and spreading them on toast is about as easy as it gets. And, paired with a toast topped with fromage blanc, olive oil and salt, it makes for a perfect afternoon snack. Or light lunch, if you are feeling particularly virtuous.
Fava Bean Spread Makes enough for 4 large toasts
1 1/4 pounds of fava beans (approximately 6 ounces shelled)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon of Maldon salt (if using kosher or table salt, reduce amount, add to taste)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Bring approximately two quarts of water to a boil. Shell fava beans and boil them until tender, 30 seconds or so. Either run cold water over the beans or wait until they are cool enough to handle and then remove the outer skins (I knick a hole at one end with my fingernail and then pop the beans out, but everyone has their own method). Add beans to a mortar (or bowl of a food processor if you prefer) and add mint and olive oil. Bash with a pestle or process until a coarse paste has developed. Salt to taste, and serve, spread on toast or crackers.