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Mashed Fava Beans with Potatoes and Chicory (Italy)
fava pure e cicorielle

    Recently I visited the Apulian (Pugliese) region of Italy on an Oldways Preservation and Exchange Trust tour with a group of journalists to see the Mediterranean diet in action. Apulian cuisine is definitely healthy, based on wild edible greens, vegetables, whole-grain cereals, fish, raw salads, bread, fruits, herbs, and lots of gold, limpid olive oil. Such high-fiber ingredients as cauliflower, peas, lentils, and beans are as ingeniously worked into their recipes as are the popular Mediterranean medley of tomatoes, green peppers and eggplant.

    One of the most intriguing dishes I tasted was this fluffy puree of fava beans blended with potatoes, bitter greens and aromatic olive oil of the best quality. Served warm, it was delicious, filling and addictive. At the Restaurant Al Fornello da Ricci in Cegli Messapica the woman chef used wild chicory or sow thistle as the bitter green of choice, but at home I found that the curly chicory worked very well.

    Favas are the preferred bean in this part of Italy where a popular saying is "Of all fresh and dried vegetables, the fava bean is queen, sovereign of all, soaked in the evening, cooked in the morning."

    To save time (to avoid an overnight soaking and peeling) I use the shelled and split favas available at Middle Eastern markets.

    For the fluffiest texture, you will want to keep the potatoes and favas that if you add salt as soon as the potatoes are tender "it fixes the starch."

    Serve this puree while still warm, accompanied by roasted bell peppers dressed with olive oil, a simple tomato salad, or in late spring, the wild onions from the botanical family Muscari--- the bitter tasting, boiled lampasciuni.

Makes 4 cups, Serves 6
1 cup (5 ounces) peeled and split dried fava beans (available at Middle Eastern grocers)
2 medium Idaho or Yukon Gold (14 ounces) potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
1/2 pound watercress, dandelion, curly endive or wild chicory
5 cups water
  Sea salt
  Freshly ground white pepper
1/4 - 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably very fruity

1. Rinse the dried favas and drain. Put the favas in a 4-quart saucepan, add water to cover and bring to a boil. Drain the favas, cover with 5 cups cold water, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook until the favas and potatoes are tender and almost all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt.

2. Meanwhile, roughly shred the greens and place in a covered saucepan with just the water that adheres to the leaves. Set over low heat, add a pinch of salt, and cook, covered, occasionally tilting the saucepan to drain off the bitter liquid that forms. When the leaves are dry, add 1/3 cup water and cook, stirring, until tender and the water has evaporated, about 6 minutes. Remove.

3. Push the favas and potatoes through the fine blade of a food mill. (Don't use the food processor.) Or mash the favas and potatoes by hand, and beat in just enough of the cooking liquid left in the pan to make the mixture smooth and fluffy. Gradually beat in the remaining olive oil, then fold in the greens. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Pile the mixture lightly on a shallow serving dish and serve while still warm. Do not reheat.

© Copyright 1994. Mediterranean Cooking, Revised Edition
Paula Wolfert

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©1999—2006 Paula Wolfert