In wintertime and early spring in Puglia, locals combine their winter stores of dried fava beans with peppery wild chicory into a satisfying, hearty dish. Dried fava beans are typically cooked until they can be mashed into a smooth puree and then topped with sautéed chicory dressed simply with olive oil and salt. Wild chicory isn’t commonplace in American markets, but we still embraced the dish’s humble roots by using more readily available escarole, which is a member of the chicory family: It's easy to find, quick cooking, and offers a similar pleasant bitterness. To amp up flavor and add brightness to the dish, we added chili flakes and lemon zest to the greens, which balanced out the bitter notes. With the greens settled, we turned our attention to creating a smooth, silky puree from the fava beans. Potato is a traditional addition to this dish, as it lends a smooth, unctuous texture; we found that adding just one potato to the pot with the beans was enough to achieve the consistency we were after. Rather than mash the cooked fava beans and potato with a potato masher, we passed them through a food mill or potato ricer to ensure a silky smooth texture. Finally, we finished the dish with shaved Pecorino for a salty bite that enhanced the complex, earthy flavors of the fava beans.
Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey
by America's Test Kitchen and National Geographic
1 Bring broth, water, and beans to boil in large saucepan. Reduce to simmer and cook until beans are softened and beginning to break down, about 15 minutes. Stir in potato, return to simmer, and cook until potato is tender and almost all liquid is absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. Pass bean-potato mixture through food mill or ricer into bowl. Stir in 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust consistency with extra hot water as needed. (Mixture should be consistency of thin mashed potatoes.) Cover to keep warm.
2 Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add garlic, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in escarole, cover, and cook until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3 Spread fava bean mixture into even layer on serving dish and arrange escarole on top. Top with Pecorino and drizzle with extra oil. Serve.
Each week, The Splendid Table brings you stories that expand your world view, inspire you to try something new, and show how food brings us together. We rely on you to do this. You have the power to keep us cooking, sharing these stories, and helping you in the kitchen.
Donate today for as little as $5.00 a month. Your gift only takes a few minutes and has a lasting impact on The Splendid Table.
Excerpted from Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey by America's Test Kitchen, Eugenia Bone and Julia Della Croce. Copyright 2018 National Geographic.
On each episode of The Splendid Table we visit with the test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen to discuss a wide range of topics including recipes, ingredients, techniques and kitchen equipment.