Fava bean soup

We had a quick, light dinner last night before heading out into the blustery freezing chill that was Valentine’s night in San Francisco. Going out on Valentine’s Day, you ask? After my rant against it? The short answer is yes. The long answer is we did a quick stop-by at my cousin’s and her girlfriend’s dual birthday bash and V-day party. We stayed just long enough for me to make a batch of wickedly boozey punch, for my dashing husband to set up a basketball game with someone about twice his height, and for Ernest to get 4 temporary tattoos before getting things moving on the dance floor with a pair of fuzzy dice and a move that brilliantly combined the hop of a bunny and the limited range of a robot in need of maintenance.

But I digress… for dinner we snacked on a little salmon salad on toasts I whipped up with some leftover salmon fillets our departed house guest cooked up the other night: a few pieces of leftover salmon flaked up with a fork, enough mayo just to bind it together but not to look creamy, salt, plenty of freshly ground black pepper, and more Meyer lemon juice that you think might really be a good idea. Had we had some green onions around I might have thrown in a few as well.

These snackies were consumed while I finished off the Fava Bean Soup. Too early for fava beans? Yes, you’d be right. But dried fava beans are always in season.

Fava Bean Soup

Dried fava beans don’t look a whole lot like their fresh, grassy green origins. Dried favas are allowed to mature in the pod, so they’re pretty big. Some dried favas are sold with their skins still on, and those are great for other dishes but not this one. Look for dried and peeled fava beans: They are pale yellow and cook quickly for dried beans. This soup is a super-simple puree topped with freshly toasted and ground (or just smashed) cumin seeds and a swirl of olive oil. This is the time to break out the good stuff. I like a really green and fruity oil with this soup. You could also garnish with some fancy-schmancy finishing salt if you have any lying around the cupboards.

12 to 16 oz. dried and peeled fava beans
1 tsp. vegetable or olive oil
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
4 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock (optional)
Fruity olive oil
Cumin seeds

Put the fava beans in a large pot, cover with water and let sit overnight. Drain, cover with water again and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a nice little bubbling simmer and cook until beans are very tender, about 30 minutes (start checking them after 20 minutes, sometimes they cook really quickly). Remove any foam that develops on the surface as the beans simmer. Turn off the heat, add about 1 Tbsp. salt, and let sit until cool. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid if you want to use that instead of stock or if you want to use it as the liquid in another soup.

While the bean cook, chop the onions and garlic. You can also toast the cumin seeds now, if you’d like. Heat a small frying pan over medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook, shaking the pan every now and then, until they smell, well, toasted. Take pan off the heat and set aside. When seeds are cool crush them in a mortar and pestle or put them in a small resealable plastic bag and smush them with the bottom of a small frying pan or saucepan.

Heat 1 tsp. oil in the pot, add onions and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add cooked fava beans and 4 cups stock or reserved bean cooking liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until flavors blend and beans are falling apart a bit, about 10 minutes. Use a hand-held blender to puree the mixture in the pot or whirl in batches in a blender. Whirl much longer than you think you need to to get the soup to a luscious, creamy texture.

Add more stock or cooking liquid to create the thickness you’d like. Taste and add salt is necessary. Beans really really need salt to bring out their inner sweetness, so don’t be shy.

Ladle into bowls, drizzle with some fabulous olive oil and sprinkle with some toasted, crushed cumin seeds. A bit of hot sauce, harissa, finishing salt, or pepper would also be in order if you were so inclined.