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Santa Barbara, CA, United States
I enjoy creating original wine-pairing recipes that are healthful and delicious. I work for Touring & Tasting a Santa Barbara based wine club and national magazine as Food Editor. However, I am not paid for this blog and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. I received my Personal Chef Skills Competency Award from the SBCC's School Of Culinary Arts. In 2012, I started Inside Wine - Santa Barbara with pal Lila Brown which features wine tastings with winery owners and winemakers. I also serve on the Board of the Santa Barbara Culinary Arts group, which had Julia Child as one of the founding members and funds scholarships for SBCC culinary students in her name.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fava-lous Beans: What To Do With Broad Beans

These beans were one of the first plants to be cultivated, with evidence of their use found over 5,000 years ago in China and North Africa. Long a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, along with chickpeas and lentils, broad beans are also called fava beans. But, after the chilling line from Hannibal Lechter in Silence of The Lambs: "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti", one sees them less often labeled as such. Difficult to peel when older, since they must be blanched in boiling water then cooled in an ice bath so the skins will slip off easily, young fava beans have a tender outer skin that you can slip off with your fingers. If they are really small, you can eat the outer skin because it is not yet bitter. I grew fava beans for the first time this year and fortunately had no problem with aphids, which can be common pests. This spring has been ideal for vegetables here in California--mostly warm, sunny days with periodic rains to keep everything verdant. Already, I'm harvesting carrots, baby beets, arugula, new potatoes, fennel...and of course, these lovely beans.

If you buy them at the farmer's market for the first time, bring them home and pop the beans out of the pods, then peel away the outer skin to reveal the green inside. Young, the pods are green and the skin orange/yellow, but as they get older the pods turn brownish and the skins grayish. You can also eat the leaves of the plant--I find the taste of their raw leaves too herbaceous, but wilted with garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon and they are delicious.

If you are wondering what do do with fava beans, try the recipe below that I whipped up recently for friends.

We enjoyed this adaption of a Spanish Paella (made with jasmine rice for aroma and faster cooking time) with the perfect wine pairing: the 2009 Borsao Garnacha that was in a previous International Sampler. A fruit-forward red wine, Garnacha has less tannins than Cab, less sweetness than Merlot. It's a rich, smooth wine that is like a mouth full of dark cherry with a bit of spice. This fava bean and shrimp dish would also pair well with the 2005 Herencia Antica Tempranillo.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 orange or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (one elephant garlic clove)
1/2 tsp. rubbed sage
2 pinches saffron threads
1 teaspoon hot Spanish or Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup jasmine rice
6 ounces peeled, deveined, raw large shrimp
1/4-1/2 cup peeled fresh fava beans (2-4 dozen in shell)
In a heavy skillet (with tight fitting lid), cook the onion, bell pepper and garlic in the olive oil over low heat until onion is translucent, stirring frequently. Add the sage, saffron, paprika, pepper, broth and rice and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn the heat to lowest setting and simmer until the rice is almost tender, about 20 minutes. Working quickly so not all the steam escapes, stir in the shrimp and fava beans. Cover again and cook until the shrimp are just opaque in the center, about 5 minutes. Don't overcook as the shrimp will toughen. Serves 4.

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