Seasonal fava beans are very versatile
To my delight, fava beans are in season once again and can easily be found in fresh produce markets or fruit stands along Highway 20 and Marysville Road.
Fava beans — also known as broad beans, Windsor, horse and by several other names — are probably one of the most versatile and ancient legumes. They were originally grown around the Mediterranean and in central Asia as early as the fifth century B.C.
In California, they are planted in February-March as a vegetable and between November-December as a cover crop to prevent soil erosion. Ideally, fava beans are harvested while still young and tender, as early as mid-May. Their nutty, grassy and meaty flavors make them a great dish when served as a dip, soup, in a salad or as an accompaniment for an entrée.
When I was a teenager in Tunis, my mother did not miss any opportunity to use fava beans for every single dish until the season was over. I grew up spending more time in the local farmer markets than at home, enjoying all the chaos, activity and joy of a turbulent market.
This recipe is very easy to make. The hardest part is to shell the fava beans twice, which that takes at least an hour. The result is astonishing: a great, tasty early summer soup that will enrich your taste buds.
CUMIN FAVA BEAN SOUP WITH POACHED EGG
Serves four to six
6 cups chicken broth (if making the soup vegetarian style, use water and omit sausages)
4 pounds shelled fava beans
4 ounces butter
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
2 large spicy andouille sausages, finely diced
1 tablespoon harissa (North African chili paste)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and ground pepper, to taste
6 farm-fresh eggs, poached
1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
In a large pot, bring to the broth or water to a boil (if using water, add a bit of salt to the liquid). Add the fava beans and cook for four minutes. Do not discard the cooking liquid, as it will be used later.
Remove the beans from the pot and put them into a bowl of ice water. Once cool, transfer them to another bowl and remove the beans' thin outer skin. Return the beans to the cooking liquid in the first large pot.
In another large pot, melt the butter and add the onion; sauté the onions until translucent. Add the andouille sausage and harissa and cook for eight minutes. Add the beans with the cooking liquid, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper.
Poach the eggs one or two at a time while the soup is cooking. Carefully transfer one poached egg to each serving dish and ladle the soup over the egg. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with oil.
I recommend serving the soup with crostini or croutons.