Purée de fèves épicée

Fava spread2Consider this a Mediterranean version of guacamole. Fava beans (aka broad beans) are cooked to tenderness and puréed with olive oil, lemon and garlic, with a little cayenne pepper for bite. A perfect spread as warm spring days edge toward the sumptuous evenings of summer. Right? That’s what I thought when I made this spread for guests a couple of weeks ago. But I was wrong. April in Paris was a bust this year. Truly the cruelest month…

Purée de fèves épicée / Tangy fava spread

But even on cold, gray, rainy days, this spread will brighten up a meal. It may be served during cocktail hour on toast, or at the table as a starter alongside other Mediterranean salads — topped with roasted pumpkin seeds or a bouquet of fresh mint or cilantro. It is definitely a dish for spring, when fava beans are in season. You can find them in outdoor markets in France beside other seasonal produce — artichokes, peas, strawberries.

Fava beansI first encountered this spread maybe 20 years ago at the home of a Lebanese woman who lived around the corner from me in Paris. A superlative cook, she used canned fava beans for the spread, and this is a fine option in other seasons. You can also make the spread with frozen fava beans, a huge convenience as it allows you to dispense with shelling the beans (and they need to be shelled twice…). But in spring, fresh beans are best.

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, Petit Larousse des recettes du potager (Larousse, 2008), a compendium of recipes featuring garden veggies. Their original version of the fava spread uses sesame seeds instead of pumpkin seeds, and ground cumin in place of cayenne. Try it that way too.

The Larousse, which calls favas  ‘the princess of peas’, has three more recipes featuring the humble bean: cold blended soup of favas and cottage cheese; a salad of baby favas, green beans, alfalfa sprouts, mint and quinoa; and a warm salad of favas, ginger and green onions. And that is just the fava part of the 37-page bean section, which also covers coco beans, green beans, peas and snow peas. It is a wonderful book for anyone interested in healthy cooking, and may hold special appeal for the vegetarians and vegans among you.

And on that note, I will wish you all warm sunny days in May. Frozen ice was falling from the sky in Paris three nights ago. May it return to the clouds and stay there till next winter.

Happy cooking.

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