Fava bean & avocado crostini

Today, we’re going to talk about these peculiar beauties.

Photo (c) Catherine McClelland

Tomatoes are the rock-stars of late summer, with their jewel tones and juicy acidity. They eclipse some of their costars, like tomatillos, okra, and fava beans–which is a shame. 

“Fava bean,” by the way, is one of those tautological expressions like chai tea, because “fava” means “fava bean” in Italian.

Photo (c) Catherine McClelland     Photo (c) Catherine McClelland

Photo (c) Catherine McClelland

In New Zealand, they’re called broad beans, and the usual treatment to boil them until soft and serve them with butter. They’re tender, but they lose their bright summer hue and turn an unattractive sickly pale green boiled-veggie colour. I never liked them much because the flesh of the boiled bean takes on a chalky texture in my mouth.

The Italians take a milder approach to fave, often serving them raw or only gently cooked. The classic way to eat them is to peel off their husk and pop them raw into your mouth with a swipe of olive oil and salt.

Unlike edamame, fava beans are usually sold unshelled in their pods, making them labour-intensive in large quantities.

This preparation is a deliciously simple dish. I needed only a modest amount of fava beans, and I left them raw so as not to diminish their bright grassy flavor. The avocado rounds out the flavour profile, softening the slight bitterness of the beans.

Photo (c) Catherine McClelland

Don’t skimp on the bread. You want crusty, toasty, crunch-in-your-mouth bread.

This dish was the maiden voyage for my new marble mortar and pestle. They’re inexpensive and look beautiful on a kitchen counter. If you don’t have one, a food processor will do fine. The mortar is more work up front, but less clean-up afterwards.

One other advantage to using a mortar is that you can pick out the bean husks more easily than if you pulse in a food processor. I smash my beans lightly, pull out the husks, and continue with just the sweet center. It reduces the bitterness and smooths out the texture of the final product. Try a husked and unhusked bean beforehand to decide if the extra work is worth it to you.

(c) Catherine McClelland - Fava Beans & Crostini

Enjoy it as an elegant antipasto for lunch, or alongside a poached egg for a light dinner.

(c) Catherine McClelland - fava bean crostini

Variations: You could be daring and go all-fava. If your grocer doesn’t stock fava beans, you could replace them with another green pulse (snow peas, edamame) or replace the avocado with spinach or basil for a less smooth, more herbaceous dish.

Crostini di Fave e Avocado
Makes 2 or 3 servings

1 very ripe avocado
6 to 8 fava bean pods
Fruity olive oil, for drizzling
Crusty bread slices
Salt and pepper

Remove beans from their pods: pinch the stem tip at the top of the pod and pull downward to loosen the pod at the seam. Use your thumb to split the pod in half lengthwise, and strip out the beans into the bowl of a mortar or food processor.

Smash or process the beans with a pinch of salt and pepper, pausing to pick out the loosened bean husks, if desired. Drizzle in the olive oil, bit by bit. Continue until you have a chunky paste, a little thicker than pesto. Spoon it into a bowl.

Halve the avocado and scoop it into the mortar or food processor. Process it to a fine paste and then transfer to the bowl with the beans. Mix together.

Lightly brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast the slices. Top with heaping spoonfuls of the fava and avocado mixture.

Recipe by Catherine McClelland.


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