Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Smashed Peas and Fava Beans with Fresh Mozzarella


Seeing as this is a recipe that embodies spring, it might surprise you to know that the first time I saw this recipe was almost three years ago in the dead of winter.  

I was in Tonsberg, Norway, with my boyfriend and we were browsing around in a popular bookstore.  Naturally, most of the titles were in Norwegian, but there were many English language books as well.  I'm not sure why, but I was surprised to find a huge shelf with American cookbooks - especially those by celebrity chefs.  My eyes scanned the titles and passed over books by Mario Batali, Rachel Ray, and Emeril Lagasse.  But the one book that really caught my eye was Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life, by Jamie Oliver.  I really liked Jamie Oliver back then, and that was even before he started his Food Revolution and I liked him even more.        


I reached up, slid the book off the shelf, and and turned back the tan hardcover to reveal colorful pages filled with beautiful recipes.  The book was divided into larger chapters based on the seasons - which I loved - and since I was freezing my butt off in the cold and snow, of course I thumbed ahead to the recipes for spring and summer.  

My mind danced around daydreaming of warmer weather when I could enjoy asparagus and fresh eggs, rhubarb, and strawberries all while basking in happy sunshine.  But it was when I turned the page and saw a recipe called, "Incredible Smashed Peas and Fava Beans on Toast," that I was really intrigued.  You see, I had never eaten a fava bean before (or actually ever seen one for that matter) and I am naturally curious about most things.  But I had one problem - I was convinced that I hated peas.    


Where this imaginary pea-hatred stemmed from, I have no idea, because as far as I can remember we never ate peas growing up.  (Unlike those awful steamed brussels sprouts that I am sure I hated and had to force down by drowning them in milk.)   When I finally did eat peas as an adult, I was prepared to leave them squarely on my hated-foods list, but my aversion to them disappeared into thin air after I popped one tiny, fresh, springtime pea into my mouth...  

It was perfection.  

It was dense and sweet, not soft but not too hard either, and I adored the way the small kernels just 'popped' in my mouth.  I was in awe.  (Not to mention, those little pea pods are just too cute.  Seriously, who can resist those?)



Now on the other hand, it took me quite awhile longer to get around to trying fava beans.  In fact, though I ended up buying Jamie at Home the summer after I first stumbled upon the cookbook, I only tried fresh fava beans for the first time this year.  Fava beans were a whole different beast than peas, but I was as equally fascinated by them in the flesh as I was on the pages of Jamie's cookbook.  Depending on how mature they are, fava bean pods can be pretty huge - up to 10 inches - but the best ones are smaller and younger.  (Size does matter, but in this case smaller is better...)     


The beans are protected inside the pod by a downy layer that perfectly conforms around each one, and the beans pop out of the pods relatively easily.  As it turns out, normally fava beans are 'shelled' twice when cooked (see this link here), but for Jamie's recipe they are used raw.  Since my fava beans were a bit mature and had some thicker skins, I did remove some of them before using them in the recipe.   

Fava beans in the pod.


To make the pea and fava puree, all you need to do is give the ingredients a whirl in your food processor or blender - The fava beans and peas are combined with fresh mint, bright lemon juice, savory parmesan, and extra virgin olive oil for richness.  Once you make the puree, all you need to do is assemble the toasts and they are ready to serve.  

Fresh pea and fava bean puree, with mint, parmesan, and extra virgin olive oil.  

Boccocini, fresh whey-packed mozzarella.

Ciabatta rolls, straight from the farmers market.

Spread the bread with fava and pea puree, then top with fresh mozzarella.


Even though it was a long time ago that I first saw this recipe, I am so glad that I finally got around to making it.  I really love simple, seasonal dishes like this one that showcase the flavors of really delicious veggies... but still combine those flavors with a little richness and indulgence.  In this case, the fresh mozzarella pairs absolutely perfectly with the sweet puree and the mint ties it all together.  

But I think the best thing about this recipe is that it is made for sharing.  Perfect for Easter or a springtime brunch, these toasts would make a beautiful platter of crostini or a small plate of appetizers for lunch with friends. 


___________________________________


Smashed Peas and Fava Beans with Fresh Mozzarella
Adapted From Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life, by Jamie Oliver


Both the peas and fava beans are used raw in this recipe, and Jamie suggests mashing all the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle to get some 'bashed and bruised flavor that makes this dish incredible.'  I don't have a mortar and pestle nearly big enough to do that, so I made mine in my food processor.  To make the pea and fava bean puree even smoother, consider blanching the fava beans before processing them.  


Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life


1 pound of peas in their pods, or about 5 ounces shelled
1 1/2 pounds of fava beans in their pods, or about 9 ounces shelled
Small bunch of fresh mint leaves (I used about 20 leaves)
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 lemon 
Extra virgin olive oil (at least 2 tbsp)
Kosher salt


For serving:
Hearty bread like sourdough or ciabatta, sliced
Boccocini, buffalo mozzarella, or other fresh whey-packed mozzarella


Shell the peas and fava beans, and remove some of the fava bean skins if they are thick.  If you prefer, blanch the fava beans in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, and slip off the skins. 


Add the peas, fava beans, mint, and lemon juice to a food processor.  Blend until the peas and beans are in small bits, then add the parmesan cheese and about 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.  Blend well, and then check for texture.  You will probably need to add at least 1-3 more tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to get a smoother, richer texture - this will really depend on the size/texture of your peas and fava beans.  You want the richness of the oil and the cheese to balance the peas and beans, and the texture should be spreadable yet still grainy.


To serve, top sliced bread with some of the pea and fava bean puree, then tear off some of the fresh mozzarella to top the puree.  If you like, add a bit more pea and fava puree on top and garnish with fresh peas, mint sprigs, or a sprinkle of parmesan.  Serve immediately.  Puree is best made the day of serving (color and flavor are brightest), but will keep refrigerated for 2-3 days more.


---This pea and fava bean puree can also be used like pesto - the addition of some extra olive oil will give a great consistency for coating the warm, fresh pasta.   

52 comments:

  1. An exquisite spring appetizer! Those look so tasty and enjoyable.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
  2. This would be perfect any time of year (coming from someone about to endure winter!)

    ReplyDelete
  3. This recipe of Jamie's is a favourite of mine! That ciabatta bread looks amazing, and your photos are gorgeous!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Beautiful photos, I love that close up on the fava bean. I do adore peas, but haven't quite made friends with fava beans yet.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Oh, wow, Amanda! How gorgeous are those?? They look so delicious, too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Where on earth do you find fresh peas in San Diego???

    ReplyDelete
  7. Robin: I have been getting them weekly from the Farmers Market in Del Mar for about the last month and a half, and I have also seen them at the farmers market in Little Italy. If you can't manage to hunt them down, you can always source them from Specialty Produce. http://www.specialtyproduce.com/

    ReplyDelete
  8. Mmmmm.... I have to try this soon!
    Peas and fava and mint is such a wonderful blend of fresh and sweet and earthy, and I love how that beautiful bright green colour just screams "spring is here!" :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is absolutely gorgeous and an amazing combination of spring flavors. Sounds delicious -- I would love to eat this.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love going into bookstores in foreign countries! I actually have a whole collection of cookbooks in other languages! Fantastic looking snack, meal? Either way, yum!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love Jamie Oliver! Although, he does pronounce the "h" in the word "herb" which kinda bugs. These look really really tasty and so healthy. I love that vibrant green color too! Makes for an awesome picture.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am in love with this idea! Such a beautiful dish. I am actually the same as you - I always skipped any recipe that called for peas, but now I love them. So funny how tastes can change if you give them a chance!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Beautiful and delicious dish. Lovely photos, too. Perfect Spring nosh!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This post is gorgeous. Your pictures made me want spring to be here more than I can even tell you.

    I must make this the next time I see the sun, hopefully this weekend :-)

    Oh and I love Jamie Oliver...so cute!

    ReplyDelete
  15. The color contrast is gorgeous and your photos are incredible. Very impressive, I love it! Thanks so much for sharing =]

    ReplyDelete
  16. Gorgeous photos! Fresh peas are the best. I can't wait until they start showing up around here!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I made a similar recipe from a Nigella book a few weeks ago and fell in love with it. LOVE peas - they's so spring like! Though I am lucky if I can get past eating them all raw to cook with them! LOL. Beautiful pictures!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I can almost taste spring just looking at these photos. Can't wait to try it. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Amazing....beautiful treats. Fresh mozzarella...so good.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Gorgeous dish! It just looks so fresh and yummy. I'm a big fan of peas myself...never had a fava bean before but i'm all about adventure. Thanks so much for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  21. This puree sounds so fresh and perfect for spring and delicious with the mozzarella. And, I just brought home some fava beans earlier today!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have myself convinced that peas are no good as well. Maybe this will change my mind? It looks delicious and I'm always excited for spring recipes :) PS: I have a fun giveaway going on right now...stop by and check it out!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi There, The smashed peas are looking so GOOD... ! Its always fun to see ur appetizing recipes. Saving this recipe of urs and wud love to give ur version a try on the coming weekend. Thanks for the lovely words. Have a great day !

    ReplyDelete
  24. I just saw a huge box of fava beans in our Persian store for about $6.00:)
    I have tried them a few years ago for the first time (Husband is a nut about the movie quotes, and Hanibal Lechter always amuses him:) and liked them, but they were a bit tedious.
    Jamie's recipe looks fantastic, probably due to your beautiful photos.
    My oldest does not like peas, but I love them, especially fresh from the market.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Love the simplicity of this. Quality ingredients… thats what its all about!

    ReplyDelete
  26. i was just looking for the perfect appetizer for a weekend brunch! this is LOVELY! thank you! gorgeous photos, too.

    www.icyviolets.com

    ReplyDelete
  27. This truly is a dish that brings out the best of the season's delightful flavors. The colors are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  28. This does indeed scream spring! As a child, I hated peas and had to swallow them whole! When I discovered how tasty fresh peas were, though, I became a convert. I still have to try fava beans, though.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Wow, this looks absolutely sensational. Gorgeous (and yummy)!

    ReplyDelete
  30. What a PERFECT spring appetizer! All of the things I love all in one tiny crostini! Delish!

    ReplyDelete
  31. What a beautiful and refreshing treat...I did not like peas as a child, but probably because I had yet to try them fresh :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Gorgeous! I recently used fava beans the other weekend and was amazed at how little you actually end up having after shelling them. Nonetheless, they made for a great topping on crunchy seed crackers and cheese. I am a huge fan of Jamie Oliver...I have the same exact cookbook you do and I am constantly impressed with his work and cooking style. Love him!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Made this for a potluck the other night. Big hit! Then tonight I made the leftovers into a grilled cheese/panini with some sundried tomatoes thrown in. Delish!

    ReplyDelete
  34. winterflamingo: Fantastic, glad you liked it! And thanks for the suggestion of using it on a sandwich - would have never thought of that! :)

    ReplyDelete
  35. This was an easy and lovely spread. Found some fresh pre-sliced mozzarella 'medallions' that made putting this together even easier. And Trader Joe's did all of the work with the peas, found a bag of fresh peas in salad section. Wondering how pine nuts would be in the mix???
    Thanks for a lovely spring-time snack!
    Julie Trekker

    ReplyDelete
  36. Julie: I have seen those mozzarella medallions before too! They are quick and easy to use, though slightly different in texture than the boccocini or buffalo mozz, but perfect for crostini or toasts like these. Adding pine nuts would up the crunch factor, and make the taste even more similar to traditional pesto - let me know if you give it a try!

    ReplyDelete
  37. You have a GORGEOUS site!!! So glad you were the one I asked for photography advice! How did I not find your blog before? Beautiful. I just had a complete Indian dinner...and....I'm hungry again. For peas and mozz. and ciabbatta. YUM!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Usually you think of mozzarella with pesto or tomatoes. But in this case is different taste simple, healthy and delicious....

    ReplyDelete
  39. i just love everything about this combination. peas and fava beans are two of my favorites. and with a beautiful mozzarella? hard to beat.

    thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  40. It looks sooo good! And your picture are wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Beautiful recipe and photos! Sounds wonderful!!! Congratulations on being the featured post today!

    ReplyDelete
  42. This looks so good! I am a lover of peas, especially fresh. One of my favorites is "mushy peas" which you get in England w/ fish and chips. Your photos are beautiful as well :-)

    ReplyDelete
  43. wonderful pics and that look so fresh and delicious.

    farida
    http://kitchensuperfood.com/

    ReplyDelete
  44. This is so healthy and delicious! I love it as a appetizer or even as a snack.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I have a recent obsession with peas, and I'm always looking for reasons to break out the food processor. This looks like a great way to combine the two (and the photography is beautiful)...thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Your food looks delicious and the photography is just stunning! Beautiful blog!

    ReplyDelete
  47. I made this yesterday and it was so delicious! I used idiazabal cheese instead, and served it on farinata genovese (my first time making it too!). Perfect for the summer time and to make a special Friday night dinner for the ones I love. Thank you for sharing!

    XO!!!

    ReplyDelete
  48. Ohonemorething: So glad you loved this recipe and your use of different cheese and bread sounds fascinating! I agree that it is a fabulous recipe for hot summer days when you want something really fresh. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

    ReplyDelete