Grandma, you won’t bring me into the broad bean field anymore, will you? This is one of the most memorable phrases of my childhood.
Grandmother got her driving license when she was already fifty, she used to drive a small white Centoventisei, a tin of sardines commensurate with today’s standards. She decided to get a driving license out of necessity, to be free to get into town from the countryside whenever she wanted, to go to the grocery’s store or supermarket, to buy flowers and plants at the store down the hill, to see the doctor, or even just to meet my grandpa at the bus stop when he would come back home after the office.
Her freedom became also mine. She would bring me back home from school or take me to the swimming pool, to my roller skating lessons, to the gym, to the catechism on Saturday afternoon or to my classmates’ birthday parties. When I turned eighteen and I got my license she said: I have driven fairly enough, now it is your turn.
Yet of all those years of rides and small car trips, my most vivid memory is related to the day when she drove me into the broad bean field.
I was young, I was maybe four, it was a sunny morning in late spring and we were driving somewhere together. Shortly after we left home, she went off the road on a gentle bend and glided gently into a broad bean field. It wasn’t a dangerous accident, no panic nor harm. We just suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a broad bean field.
Luckily two neighbours were just passing by at the time and they helped grandma getting the car out of the field. We came back home, as if nothing had happened.
I do not know if it is due to that sudden flight into the field, but until a few years ago I just could not bear broad beans. Their slightly herbaceous flavour is an acquired taste, something I learned to appreciate as an adult when I began to have my weekly trip to the farmers’ market, exploring what was in season. Today for me it represents the true taste of spring, more than fresh peas, monk’s beard or asparagus.
Broad beans are a flag of my Tuscan heritage, a declaration of origin: when it comes the time of fresh broad beans, here we usually eat them raw, podding them on the moment, with a few slices of local pecorino cheese, which mellows the bitterness and leaves in your mouth a fresh, green taste. When in season, it is one of the most appreciates appetizers during my cooking classes. I bring to the table a cheese platter and a basket of fresh broad beans, still in their pods. The beans are so podded on the table and the empty pods are left scattered on the table cloth. It is a habit that breaks all the schemes, relieves tension and opens up an informal lunch with friends.
Bruschetta with ricotta and broad beans
This bruschetta with ricotta and broad beans has the same character: spring-like, imperfect, free. It’s the third recipe prepared for the wine Campofiorin for an aperitivo with friends, a brunch or as a seasonal appetizer.
Toast the bread, smother with a dollop of ricotta whipped with grated pecorino and lemon zest, top with broad beans, podded and infused with olive oil and mint. Do not be precise, be generous. Arrange the bruschette on a cutting board and dress with a your best extra virgin olive oil, then garnish with shaved pecorino and fresh mint leaves. Eat them with your hands, you are allowed to lick your fingers, yet another concession to the etiquette for a seasonal starter.
- 1 kg of broad beans to be podded
- 150 g of fresh sheep ricotta
- Zest of ½ organic lemon
- 1 tablespoon of grated pecorino cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh mint
- 4 slices of bread
Shell the beans and blanch them for 30 seconds in a pot of boiling water.
Pass them under cold water, then remove the outer skin: make a small slit with a knife along the edge and pop the bean out from its skin. Collect the beans in a bowl and drizzle with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and some chopped mint leaves.
Toast the bread slices.
Whip the ricotta with lemon zest, a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of grated pecorino, then season it with salt and pepper.
Smother the ricotta on the bread and spoon the beans on top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and garnish with slivers of pecorino and fresh mint.
More seasonal recipes with broad beans
- Fava bean and pecorino tartlets. This is your recipe if you like spring picnics and love to be tickled by that subtle and sparkling liveliness that you can breathe in the shade of an olive tree under the May sky. Just pay attention to the quantities, and bake a tartlet for every friend!
- Fava bean, salami and cheese muffins. Take the usual colourful basic ingredients, mix them with some corn flour to give a crunchy texture and a hint of lemon peel to add more freshness and bake them in small portions: the happy hour has never been so happy!
- Fava beans with chorizo and pimentòn. You can perceive the vibrant Mediterranean soul that shakes this side dish directly from the colours, but certainly the Mediterranean accent isn’t limited to the nuances: the fava beans, for example, are very popular in the Italian cuisine and in the southern France traditions as well. Italy lives in this side dish thanks to the sweet Pachino cherry tomatoes and the match between beans and sausages – typical of many local recipes -, while Spain, perhaps the main country, is represented by the chorizo and the pimentón.