I’d Like to Propose a Toast

Well, it’s been over a year since my last Boxing Day post.

Lots of excuses reasons, I suppose, from the physical fatigue of working straight through COVIDtimes to the mental fatigue of, nine years into this CSA-focused project, fighting to find something fresh to say about, say, kale.

But last week at the shop, a customer asked if I’d given up the blog, sweetly adding that she missed hearing my voice on the page—and after I told her I guess I’d been taking an unplanned break, I went into the breakroom and had a wee cry.

Because that’s when it hit me that I’d not written a thing since my mother’s eulogy; she’d died suddenly a year ago today.

So here’s proof, Ma, that I’m still eating my vegetables. I think of you every time I pull out your old gooseberry-pattern Pyrex bowl or level off your flour cup. And so very many times in between. Here’s to you.

Fava Bean Toasts

No favas? No problem. I do pretty much the same thing with English shelling peas, using a two-minute blanch and shock before I smash them with a fork. Edamame (soy beans) work great, too.

  • 2 pounds fava bean pods (should yield about 1 cup of shelled beans)
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1-2 tbsp toasted, sliced, slivered, or roughly chopped almonds
  • a few springs of fresh, tender herbs (I used both mint and basil)
  • Kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
  • 8-10 slices of grilled or toasted baguette
  • fromage blanc or other fresh, spreadable cheese (optional)
  • Parm, Pecorino Romano, or other hard, aged cheese (optional)
Use what you have. Fromage blanc, fresh ricotta, chèvre, or even cream cheese for the schmear; Grana Padano, Romano, Parmesan, or aged Jack for the garnish (or omit cheese altogether to keep things vegan). Mint, basil, tarragon, sorrel, or a combo as your herb note. Your very best olive oil, though, is a must.

Shell the beans by pulling on the stringy stem at the top and then splaying the pod open like a long, green book. The beans should pop right out with your thumb.

Look for pods free of rusty spots, but don’t sweat any random calico patches on the inner beans. You’re gonna slip those skins off anyway after you blanch, and if anything looks funky on the inside, you can toss the odd ones out then.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, and load a large bowl with ice and a bit of water. Add the beans to the pot and cook for three minutes. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer the beans to the ice bath. Once they’re cool enough to handle, gently squeeze each bean from its outer skin. Discard the skins, and put the beans into a small mixing bowl.

Use a fingernail or the tip of a knife to slit the skin. With light pressure, the bean will slip right out.

Toss the cooked beans with the olive oil, lemon juice, and zest. Season with salt and pepper. Fold in the toasted nuts and fresh herbs. Let it all sit for ten minutes, then taste again and adjust the lemon, salt, and pepper to your liking.

Schmear a layer of your spreading cheese (if using) on each toast, spoon over the bean mixture, and garnish with a few mint leaves and/or a couple curls of the hard cheese.

In the unlikely event you have any bean mixture left over, enjoy it as a protein-packed side salad—or as the base for a no-cook pasta sauce. Just add in a few sliced cherry or grape tomatoes and a couple extra glugs of olive oil, then toss it with hot noodles.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Marisa says:

    It is a pleasure to read your words again. ❤

    1. Susan says:

      Thanks, my dear. That’s very sweet.

  2. Jayme says:

    You made me tear up, Susan, when you wrote how you were still honoring your mom with your actions. I’m thrilled to see and read a post from you, and I hope that you feel reviewed energy to create and expand and grow, just like your mother would honestly be proud of your doing. Much love, jayme

    1. Susan says:

      Thanks, Jayme. Cheers. Hope the vine goddesses are good to you this season!

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