For the June Cookbook Challenge, we knew some books were gimmies. They were just too reliable, too aligned with how we like to cook. When it came time to crack open Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food, a straightforward, Quaker-like cookbook of clean, healthy cooking so sparsely illustrated that the editorial staff of Cook’s Illustrated would swoon, do you think we said “give us a tough one! Make us sweat!” and rose up to the challenge of a dish that truly takes mastery?
Hell no we didn’t! We are 3/4 of the way done and the last thing I want after along day of work is to come home to tackle – then screw up – a recipe full of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Now in fairness, this is pretty much what Waters preaches: eat seasonally, buy locally, prepare simply, and you will enjoy nature’s bounty. Or, in the immortal words of Gansie from Endless Simmer, “Don’t fuck with it.”
And there are few seasonal dishes I want to mess with less than simply prepared dish of fava beans. Like an old hound dog waiting on the porch, my love of fava beans is unfaltering. I love everything about them. I love their bright green color than yelps “spring! healthy! fresh!” I love the texture I get when I bite down into one that has just baaaarely been cooked. I love that they are only in season briefly, so I have an excuse to be a bean glutton. I love don’t mind that they are the beans of diminishing return you have to shell twice to get to the good stuff, even though you buy them by weight. I inhale them.
For this particular fava bean adventure, we went with a fava bean ragout. Which is less the slowly simmered, spiced meat destined for pasta ragout I’m most familiar with and more a quick sautee of veggies. Easy peasy. When diving into the recipe, I realized we were missing a few ingredients so there was definitely some last minute improvisation. The recipe we ate was fava beans sauteed in the good olive oil with garlic scapes, salt, and pepper. It was divine. Yes, I cheated based on what we had in the house. But Alice would have wanted it that way.
The full blown recipe is below.
Fava Bean Ragout, from The Art of Simple Food
Shelled: 2 pounds of fava beans
Cook in boiling water for 1 minute or so and then cool in ic ewater. Drain and pop the beans out of their skins.
In a heavy saucepan heat:
1 TB olive oil or butter
2 small spring onions, trimmed and sliced crosswise. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 minutes. Add peeled fava beans. and
1 small green garlic, trimmed and sliced crosswise
Pour enough water to come up 1/4 inch in the pan. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 4 minutes or until fava beans are tender. Add:
2 TB olive oil or butter
2 TS choppped parsley or chevril
Swirl to combine. Season to taste.