March 25, 2013

Fava and Fresh Mozzarella Panini

Considering that we've been living in the East Bay for more than five years and in our current house for almost three, you'd think we'd have gotten used to the way the seasons work around here. Even so, we're still surprised every year when the cherry trees in our neighborhood start blooming in early to mid-February. It always feels like we just recently started grumbling about the end of summer, which also seems to catch us by surprise every year. I sometimes feel that Thanksgiving and the whole "holiday season" that follows are all some kind of trick to distract us with food and celebration so that we forgot to mourn the end of the wonderful warm weather and summer produce. It's not a bad trick, anyway, and it seems to have propelled us all the way through winter, so that here we are at the other end. We've started our annual asparagus binge (we ate it nearly every day last week), and spent all day Saturday working in our garden (before we came inside to eat asparagus - along with our poached chicken with tarragon cream sauce and a delicious blueberry crisp -  for dinner). 

So, here we are, emerging from a bit of a hibernation on our blog with a fresh, green sandwich filled with another harbinger* of spring - the fava bean. It took us a while to shell those two pounds of beans, and then remove their skins, but it was totally worth it. Make this lunch on a weekend when you have a bit of time. We put favas on the sandwiches in two forms: a purée with parmesan and olive oil, and just fresh and simple. We topped all that off with a bright, chopped salsa verde and fresh mozzarella. Happy spring!

*Language sidenote: I wanted to use the word harbinger here, and then I questioned whether you could have a harbinger of something good, or if it only applied to negative things: harbinger of doom, harbinger of death (you are the harbinger of death, Kara Thrace - Battlestar Galactica, anyone?). So I Googled it and discovered on Wiktionary that it does in fact mean simple something that foreshadows or predicts the coming of something - but more interestingly, I learned that it comes from a Middle English term herbegeour, which means someone who is sent ahead to find lodgings. And - we're getting to the point here - that term is related to all the latinate terms for lodging: French héberger (to host or lodge), and related terms like Italian albergo (hotel) and French auberge - and also English, harbor. There, your nerd quotient for the day.

Fava and Fresh Mozzarella Panini (makes 4)

- Foccacia or bread of your choice
- 2 lb fresh fava beans
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup loosely packed arugula
- 1/2 cup loosely packed parsley
- 2 tbsp capers
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Fresh mozzarella

First, prepare the fava beans by removing them from their pods and then cooking them in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, and then pop them out of the loose outer skin (you can break the skin at the base with your fingernail, then squeeze them out). 

Take about 1/3 of the favas and put them in a food processor with the parmesan cheese and some salt and pepper. Pulse the food processor to purée the beans, then, with the motor running, pour in olive oil slowly until the bean blend is nice and smooth (about 2 tablespoons).

Coarsely chop the arugula and parsley with the capers, then put it all in a bowl and stir in the lemon juice, some olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Slice your bread open and spread a layer of the fava spread on the bottom and a layer of the herb blend on the top. Place the remaining fava beans on top of the spread, then top with sliced mozzarella. Press in a panini machine, if you have one, or simply heat it up in the oven until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.


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