I'll admit it -- I've never tried fava beans before this past weekend. For starters, they're not exactly on the radar of any of the local grocery stores. Plus the produce places, including the farmers markets, don't carry them. So when I saw a neat recipe that included them, I decided to try a little harder.
Luckily, a newer store in my town carries them. They say they have them in three forms, though the canned variety is all I could find. I'm now eager to try them fresh.
I found this recipe in a fantastic cookbook (and a must-have for everyone, including vegetarians) -- Tasting the Wine Country by Sharon O'Connor. O'Connor has gathered recipes from some of the country's top bed and breakfast inns. The result -- culinary heaven.
If you're a meat eater.
Ah, but you're a savvy vegetarian, and you know how to adapt recipes to fit your palate, right? While there doesn't seem to be an adequate substitute for rack of lamb or filet mignon (and when recipes rely heavily on meat as the star, there's little you can do), there are just as many recipes begging to be reworked.
So I started with a recipe from the cookbook for pan-seared halibut steaks. Here's the result. I'll warn you: this one is going to take a while to make because of all the various steps. Read through it first
Seared Tofu with Ragout and Mashed Potatoes
1 block extra-firm tofu
1 piece kombu
1 small piece nori
3 Tbl. soy sauce
salt and pepper
Cut a block of tofu into four triangles (or however you like to eat it). Drain on paper towels. Meantime, put kombu and nori in a cake pan or casserole dish, add about 1/2 cup of hot water and let it set for a few minutes. Depending on how much you like kombu or nori, either remove it within five minutes or let it be in the pan as you add the tofu. Sprinkle soy sauce over top, then season tofu with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Let it sit while you put together the ragout, turning it now and then to let the juices absorb into the tofu.
Meanwhile put 4 medium-to-large white potatoes, skinned and cubed, on to boil.
1 can fava beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly
1 cup peas
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup fresh basil (must be fresh or forget this recipe)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 Tbl. butter
salt and pepper to taste
Blanch the basil in hot water for a few seconds (wilt it) and then put it into a food processor with the oil and process it smooth. Dump it into a small colander and drain out the oil, reserving it.
Boil the fava beans (even the canned ones) for about ten minutes in a small saucepan. Drain. Rinse. Set aside.
Your potatoes should be ready. Keep them in the water (to keep them hot) while you blend these ingredients together:
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbl. butter
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Heat these ingredients in a small saucepan (same one you used for the fava beans is fine) until the butter melts. Turn off and leave on the burner.
Now, back to the tofu. Heat a skillet, add the drained canola oil from your basil experiment to the skillet, and fry the tofu on both sides until heated through and there's a nice crust forming. It took me about 10 minutes per side, flipping a lot, to get it to where I wanted it.
While you're waiting for browned tofu, start the ragout. In a medium pan, combine the fava beans, peas, broth, and basil puree. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and add the butter. Salt and pepper to your liking. Turn off the heat.
Make your mashed potatoes, adding the blended milk mixture.
Spoon the ragout into shallow bowls. Add a plop of potato, then lay your tofu on top. You're done.
Dinner is ready.