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Farewell Spring! (fava bean and rice soup)

June 27, 2011
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The farewells keep coming. Since watching Amanda drive off into the distance, it seems like every week brings a significant goodbye. Next in line was Captain Jack (no not that Captain Jack) at the food pantry. Then my co-worker and one of my biggest mentors departed for an amazing new job. And now, as a final blow, spring and it’s beautiful fresh fava beans have left us behind as well.

The first three goodbyes involved food celebrations. Amanda and our friends attacked numerous bowls of our favorite free chips and salsa on her last night in town. We managed to picnic amidst a rain storm to send Jack off. And the lab has thus far had a total of 3 food-filled goodbyes for Gary, with another slated for August. Either we’re really lazy gluttons, or Gary really was that significant to our lab culture. Probably both.

It was only appropriate that I create a food-filled celebration to bid farewell to spring as well. So I gathered the last of the fava bean harvest at the farmer’s market this weekend and set to work recreating an old favorite soup. I love popping the colorless beans out of their splotchy dark pods and then peeling back the blanched outer casing to reveal this incredibly bright green, buttery little bean. The process is itself an echo of the progression of spring that brings us these luxurious bites. First the weathered dark landscape, to an initial thaw and pokes of life and then – as if by magic – color everywhere.

So, yes, I live for my fresh favas. They’re perfect for celebrating the end of one of my three favorite seasons. (Winter, you’re banned until I move back to Utopia.) Favas are available frozen year-round, but it was the fresh ones that pushed me to expand my cooking horizons. I was introduced to them two years ago at a soup party, when one of the guests brought favas that she had picked at the community farm only hours before. We used them in this soup and now I make it once annually. If fresh favas are available in your area, I urge you to grab some and make this soup. Otherwise, grab some frozen ones and, by virtue of tossing them in boiling water, make it a belated farewell to winter instead of spring.

Fava Bean and Rice Soup
Recipe adapted lightly from The Soup Bible
Serves 4-6

2 1/4 pounds fava beans (a.k.a. broad beans) in their pods, or scant 2 cups shelled frozen fava beans, thawed
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup arborio or other non-parboiled rice
2 tablespoons butter
1 quart boiling vegetable stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch the beans for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking. If using fresh beans, peel off the skins. In the same pot start heating your vegetable stock.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add onion and cook over medium heat until translucent. Stir in beans and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add tomatoes and cook 5 minutes. Stir often. Add in rice. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly and then add the butter. This is one of the rare cooking applications where you can use either salted or unsalted. Once butter has melted, pour in the vegetable stock little by little. Adjust seasoning to taste – I had to add probably 1-2 teaspoons salt, although I never measure these things. Continue to cook until the rice is tender.

Serve immediately with grated Parmesan.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Barbara Stoops permalink
    July 1, 2011 2:31 pm

    Who cares how your food taste? Just reading your lovely descriptions is pure joy – after the description of fava beans I want to get some immediately and cook up this soup.

    It’s not quite the same but when I read about popping the little beans out of their pods your visuals reminded me very much of lazy summers in West Virginia and sitting out on the porch stringing green beans. Same kind of lovely experience calling all the senses together to create good food.

    And one other note – your photography is also getting better by the day. I love looking at what you make as much as reading about it.

    • July 1, 2011 2:43 pm

      Thanks!

      It’s funny. I have fewer memories of the great WV green bean harvests, but without fail, I always think of sitting in Uncle Al and Aunt Janet’s garage when I string my green beans.

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