Fava Bean Salad: With Walnuts and Pear

Casey Barber | Good. Food. Stories.

This warm fava bean salad with waluts and pear is a harbinger of spring. Enjoy its subtle, albeit distinct, pork flavor today!

Fava Bean Salad Photo

Fava beans don't make it easy for you to love them.

Like a girl who's had her heart broken one too many times, they've barricaded themselves with a fortress of inedible protection to keep suitors from the tender, nutty kernels deep down inside. To prove your worth and commitment, you've got to remove a spongy outer pod that looks (and feels) like a set piece from Little Shop of Horrors or a '50s sci-fi movie, then a tough shell surrounding the delicate bean.

With an attitude like that, you'd be forgiven for shrugging off the idea of cooking them at home. But you know what they say: anything worth having is worth fighting for. And the reward of a fresh fava bean salad, green with promise after a cold, colorless winter, is a more than worthwhile way to celebrate the new growing season.

Raw Fava Beans

Favas are typically paired with peas and mint, two other early harbingers of spring. And it's easy to interchange peas and favas - this salad, in fact was inspired by a dish from the San Francisco Italian pizzeria that paired shelled peas and pea shoots with guanciale, the aromatic Italian cured meat made from a pig's jowl.

The creamy white fat of guanciale (pronounced "gwan-chee-AL-ay") is unparalleled in its richness and flavor, and lends a subtle but distinct porkiness to every dish in which it's used.

If your local butcher doesn't carry guanciale, get on his case to get some in the case! La Quercia is a wonderful American producer whose meats are widely carried in supermarkets like Whole Foods.) Then feel free to substitute pancetta or unsmoked bacon in its place.

Oh, and no Hannibal Lecter jokes, please. Though it's true that a slightly fruity and tannic red like Chianti matches up well with the earthy taste of walnuts and pork in this salad, a dry white wine like an Italian Friuli would fit the bill equally well.

    4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fava beans, in their pods
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup pancetta, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely crushed by hand
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 asian pear

Directions

  1. Bring a small (1- to 2-quart) saucepan of water to a boil as you remove the fava beans from their pods. Blanch the beans by dropping them into the boiling water and cooking for 1-2 minutes, just enough to loosen the tough skins.
  2. Fill a small bowl with ice water. Scoop the favas out of the boiling water with a metal skimmer or strainer and drop into the ice water to "shock" them and stop the cooking process. Peel the tough skins off each bean, reserving the tender inner beans and tossing the peeled skins.
  3. Whisk 1 tablespoon of the mint, the minced shallot, and the vinegar together in a small mixing bowl. Set aside, allowing the vinegar to soften and mellow the flavor of the shallots.
  4. Heat the guanciale in a medium (10-inch) skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 7-10 minutes as the pork renders its fat. When the pork is opaque and crisp, add the walnuts and cook, stirring, for about 3-5 minutes more to toast the walnuts.
  5. Add the reserved fava beans and the remaining tablespoon of the mint and cook for about a minute more. Remove from the heat.
  6. Whisk the olive oil into the reserved vinegar mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Scrape the favas, walnuts, and guanciale into a bowl and add the diced pear. Toss with the dressing and serve warm.

Notes

  • You may use guanciale in lieu of pancetta.
  • Can't find Asian pears at your market? Substitute a super-crisp apple variety like the Honeycrisp , Pink Lady or Granny Smith

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Casey Barber

About Casey

Casey loves the Mets, Pittsburgh, and all things food, which she writes about on Good. Food. Stories. She's sharing her heritage and authentic Italian recipes as our Italian Fanatic.

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