You think you know everything about apples, and boom — you pick up today’s Food section and discover that they make great syrup. (Well, it’s apple cider that does, but still: a surprise.) And then you find out what’s behind the unfamiliar new varieties we’ve been seeing at the market. And then you find out why two D.C. restaurateurs criscrossed Philadelphia on a whirlwind cheesesteak-tasting spree. Okay, that last story has nothing to do with apples, but I had to fit it in somehow.
Yes, it’s another Wednesday, which means another Free Range chat. Tune in today at 1 and get ready to increase your culinary smarts. While you wait, here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat:
In an effort to be organized for the first week of school for a near-veg daughter who wanted something different, I tried to make a pot of fava beans. They started out brown and dried. I soaked them for more than 24 hours, peeled off the tough brown skin and then cooked the beans in simmering water for two hours. They were still sort of crunchy inside, but also falling apart. Where did I go wrong?
I thought a genuine fava expert should handle this one, so I turned to chef-author Aliza Green, who has written an entire cookbook about beans. Here’s what she said:
The problem with the fava beans sounds like the beans themselves were too old and/or they were cooked too quickly. Since we have no harvest-dating of dried beans in the U.S., it’s impossible to know just how old those beans were, but they could be as much as 10 (!) years old.
Large dried favas are always challenging to cook. I have several suggestions: Once the skin has been removed, bring water to the boil in an ovenproof pot with a lid, and add a pinch of baking soda (no more than 1/8th of a teaspoon) to help neutralize acid in the water, which is likely hard and full of minerals.
Once the water comes to the boil, transfer to a 275-degree oven, cover, and cook slowly in the oven for about 3 hours or until soft. The slower the better, especially with large beans such as favas, salting in the last hour of cooking so the salt penetrates to the center. (If the favas are fully cooked before salting, the salt will stay on the outside.)
A slow-cooker is another possibility. Many times, this falling-apart texture is what is desired, as for Egyptian ful and Tunisian bisara (Fava Bean Stew with Merguez Lamb Sausage). . . . To learn more, my book, “Beans: More than 200 Wholesome, Delicious Recipes From Around the World,” is a great source for recipes and extensive background info.
I’m back. A great answer, right? The idea that some of the dried beans in my pantry might have been harvested a decade ago is a little dismaying. Full-disclosure package dating for beans is starting to sound like a good idea.
Meanwhile, here’s a recipe that starts with dried favas. For adventurous young eaters, I can see this packed in a school lumchbox with crackers or cut veggies.
Swiss Chard and Fava Bean Dip
This dip has an unusual, almost smoky quality. Bet your guests won’t be able to tell it’s made with Swiss chard.
We found dried split fava beans at Yekta Market in Rockville (301-984-0005).
Serve on endive spears or crostini.
MAKE AHEAD: The fava beans need to be soaked in cool water overnight. The dip can be covered in an airtight container, with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface, and refrigerated for up to 1 day.
Makes 3 to 3 1 / 4 cups
1 cup dried split fava beans (see headnote)
1 bunch Swiss chard (3/4 to 1 pound)
6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Place the dried split fava beans in a bowl and cover with cool water. Cover with a plate and let sit overnight.
Drain through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the water. Transfer the beans to a medium saucepan and cover with water by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam from the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 1/2 hours, so the fava beans are completely soft and the contents of the pot resemble porridge.
Use your hands to tear the green parts off the stems of the chard. Discard the stems and coarsely chop the leaves. Squeeze out any excess moisture.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chard and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until it has darkened in color.
Transfer the Swiss chard with the oil to the bowl of a food processor; add the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Use a fine-mesh strainer to scoop the soft fava beans into the processor, shaking out as much liquid as possible before each addition.
Puree to form a smooth, green and creamy mixture. Taste, and add salt as needed. The dip will thicken a bit as it cools.
Transfer to a bowl for serving. If not using right away, let the dip cool, then press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent discoloration. Refrigerate until ready to use (up to 1 day).
From Chevy Chase caterer Vered Guttman.