Monday, May 4, 2009

Farmer's Market Fantasy

I think I've been going to farmer's markets since God made dirt - or sometime around then. What I've noticed is that they're all similar and at the same time they're all different. One of the things I love about them is that I can buy directly from the people who have grown the food. That's an experience you don't get from a store - not even your local organic co-op, if you've got one. There's something very satisfying about having a face that goes with the produce. And there's also the fun atmosphere at farmer's markets - there's usually someone playing music, and people come with their kids, and everyone is generally in a jolly mood. And then there's the dizzying array of fruits and veggies, as well as cheeses and olives and honey and, and, and.... The list is endless, and this is one thing that separates different farmer's markets.

For instance, here in San Diego, the market I go to has lots of clothing and jewelry, hats and pots and pans etc. It seems to be both a farmer's market as well as an ongoing crafts fair. That can be fun, but it's not really what I'm looking for in a farmer's market. Last weekend, however, I went to L.A. for the Festival of Books. Spent a relaxing, stimulating day on the UCLA campus, listening to various authors talk about different aspects of their work. (I chose the panels on fiction and memoir.) I stayed overnight with my niece Rachael - one of the founders and partners of Chicks With Knives, a sustainable, organic, local and ethical food company. The next day, she directed me to the closest farmer's market, which was on Sunset and Ivers.

O.M.G., is all I can say. Trite, I know, but I was, as they say, gobsmacked. (Don't you just love that word?) I found myself loading up the one cotton bag I had taken from the car, and wishing I had bothered to grab the other one. Since fava beans are in season, I knew I needed a serious supply.
Favas, to me, are mysterious and wonderful. I didn't grow up with them. My mom never made them, and I cannot recall the first time I came across them. But once they appeared on my plate, I've found myself looking forward to fava bean dishes every year. I've made them hot and cold, and I'm always amazed at the fact that I love them. I don't like lima beans (one of the few foods I could easily live without), but I adore favas. Is it because I didn't grow up with them, and therefore they're exotic?

In the past, I've always made, cooked and served them hot. This year, it was time for a salad. Maybe because it was hot the day I bought them, but it was definitely time for a salad. This particular dish can be served warm, but I prefer it at room temperature. The recipe - from the May, 2002 issue of Bon Appetite, calls for pancetta. I omitted it because I was interested in making this as a salad and didn't want meat in it. That's just a personal choice, and I'm certain that it would have been eqally as delicious with pancetta.

Saute of Fresh Fava Beans, Onion and Fennel

3 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled, or 3 cups frozen baby lima beans, thawed
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground in spice grinder
1 1/3 cups (about) canned low-salt chicken broth
4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup chopped pancetta
1/2 teaspoon dried savory
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cook fava beans in boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain, cool and peel outer skins (do not cook or peel lima beans).

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and fennel bulb; sauté 5 minutes. Add favas or lima beans and fennel seeds; sauté 3 minutes. Add 1 cup broth and 2 tablespoons dill; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in pancetta and savory, adding more broth if mixture is dry. Simmer until favas are tender, about 15 minutes longer. Mix in lemon juice and 2 tablespoons dill. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Notes on another topic:

When my computer comes back from being repaired, I will be posting a number of new pages to my website about healthy eating. Of course, I have no idea when my computer will make it's round trip from New Jersey, but I still have faith that it will make it back and be functional. In the meantime, I'm posting during my lunch hour at work. Not as convenient, but it works. But there's still a section on Food as Medicine at Mission Valley Acupuncture. Check it out if you're interested and let me know what you think!


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I'm fava bean green with envy! Here in Rhode Island, our local market just opened last week, and all they had was bread and herbs in pots. We're still several weeks away from local produce.

Terry at Blue Kitchen said...

You know, Toni, I don't think Southern Californians should be allowed to write about farmers markets except during the summertime. My neighborhood one here in Chicago doesn't open until June. And though it gets better every year, it can't hold a candle to those in California. On a completely different note, we're huge fans of the word gobsmacked. Also "Chicks With Knives" is the coolest name I've come across recently. Just checked out their site--also a cool sounding business!

Unknown said...

Lydia - I'd forgotten about how long it takes for farmers markets to open back east!

Terry - LOL! But you can console yourself with the fact that we don't have anything that comes close to the Art Institute here in S.D. (And it takes >2hrs. to drive to the Getty in LA).

Glad you liked CWK!

Cynthia said...

I don't think I've ever had fava beans and my oh my they do look delicious fresh. I'd just want to cook them lightly and gently.

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