Broad beans have a long tradition of cultivation in Old World agriculture, being among the most ancient plants in cultivation and also among the easiest to grow. It is believed that along with lentils, peas and chickpeas, they became part of the eastern Mediterranean diet in around 6000 BC or earlier.
The term fava bean (from the Italian fava) is its most common name in the United States, with broad bean being the most common name in the UK.
In ancient Rome, beans were used in voting; a white bean was used to cast a yes vote, and a black bean for no. Some people carry a fava for good luck; some believe that a broad bean, in pocket will assure the essentials of life. In and around Rome, on May 1st, families traditionally eat fresh fava beans with Pecorino Romano cheese during a daily excursion or a picnic.
Cicoria is a very interesting green leafy protagonist of Italian cuisine. This relative of the endive has curly, bitter-tasting leaves that are often used as part of a salad or cooked as greens. In the United States, early endive is sometimes erroneously called chicory. Today’s trendy radicchio is in effect a red-leafed cicoria.
The chicory roots, which were baked and ground, were used as a coffee substitute during WWII when espresso was a luxury item sold uniquely on the black market. When a particular espresso is of inferior quality, it is often compared to the wartime surrogate coffee beverage.
- & -This recipe hailing from the splendid region of Puglia, features the pairing of bitter cicoria leaves and a delicate fava bean purée.
- 250 gr (1/2 lb) dried and peeled fava beans, soaked overnight
- 500 gr (1.1 lb) bitter greens (like black kale, aka cavolo nero, dandelion, or chicory)
- 6 slices crusty peasant bread, 1” thick (OPTIONAL)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
Once there is no more foam, add a generous pinch of salt and cook the beans, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, or until they have dissolved into the water and have taken the consistency of clotted cream. You may have to add more boiling water to keep beans from scorching.
Using a hand blender beat in 1/4 cup olive oil and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.
While the beans cook, soak the greens in and baking soda, rinse several times in clean water, and then place them in a saucepan over high heat and cook them in the water that clings to their leaves, adding a little more water if necessary to prevent scorching. Once they are very tender, remove from the pot, squeeze out excess water, and dress with the remaining olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste.
Serve the greens and fava puree in soup bowls over a slice of grilled or toasted bread, drizzled with a thread of raw oil.
Have a nice weekend!