Friday, May 3, 2013
It's been a while since new produce has challenged me to be creative. I added fava beans to my garden last Fall because I read that the root fix nitrogen and they are a really good green cover-crop. Turns out they were super easy to grow, pretty and productive. However, I had never tried them and didn't know if I would like them.
Here is an image from mid Winter. The little flowers are like black and white flags. Sacramento's Winters are very mild and these little flowers attracted a lot of insects and hummingbirds.
When the beans start to grow, they pop right out of the stem joint where the flowers appeared. It takes a while for them to come to full growth. Mine were about 8 inches long and about as thick as my thumb. I saw much larger ones at the grocery store, but I think they must have been another variety. They were about a foot long!
I have six or seven plants. They each grew to about 4 feet high. I have harvested two sets of beans. Miss Madelyn says the tender leaves at the ends of the branches are tasty cooked up as you would any other green. I have to admit, I haven't tried to cook the leaves yet. I tasted one raw and it was quite grassy.
Fava beans are somewhat famous for being labor intensive. To get the two cups of prepared beans for this recipe, I shelled a big pile that filled up a 9 x 12 inch bake pan. Once the outer shell is removed, you must blanch the beans for a minute then remove to ice water. Then you have a second shelling when you pop the little tender beans out of the thick skin that is around each individual bean. They are really yummy - sweet, with the aforementioned grassy aroma. If you pick them before the outer pods begin to dry out, they will be tender and soft. The closest taste I can compare it to is that of fresh green peas.
The combination of fragrant Basmati rice, sweet tender beans and fresh herbs make this rice dish something special. The addition of succulent shrimp make it a dish suitable for your next fancy brunch or ladies' lunch. I hope you will try both the growing and the recipe!
Brown Basmati Rice with Fava Beans and Shrimp
2 tbsp. butter, divided use
1 shallot, diced
1 carrot, diced small
2 cups prepared fava beans
Salt and Pepper
2 cups cooked brown Basmati rice
2 cups peeled and cooked shrimp
handful of fresh chopped parsley
1 tbsp. fresh chopped tarragon
Melt 1 tbsp. butter in a large skillet over a medium heat. Add the shallots and onions. Saute gently until tender-crisp. Add the fava beans and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add the brown rice. If you have used cold, leftover rice, as I did, allow it to become warm before adding the herbs and shrimp. After adding the herbs and shrimp, cook just long enough to warm the shrimp. To finish the dish, stir in the final tbsp. of butter. Makes 4 servings.