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Apulian Cooking
Purée of fresh fava beans with chicory from Galatina A delicious springtime variant on the classic “fava bean purée with chicory”, which is prepared with dried beans.
It is easy to make and a sure success
by Dario Ersetti
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Photo by Dario Ersetti

 Fava bean

      The fava bean (Vicia faba var. major), also known as the broad bean, is a leguminous plant that develops and matures long green pods, which contain rather large seeds that are lightly compressed. They have been used for thousands of years for food throughout the world, particularly in the Mediterranean region.

      It is a strange legume, surrounded by mystery. The ancient Greeks, and later the Romans linked them to rituals for the defunct, eating the beans on days dedicated to the deceased. The high priests of Jupiter could not eat fava beans or even look at them. Pitagora forbade his disciples to consume them.

      The negative fame of the fava bean finds its origin, probably, from the color of the plants blossom, which is white with black spots, a symbol of mystery, and very rare among vegetable plants; furthermore, they are certainly associated with favism, a hereditary disease that causes hemolytic anemia, characterized by the lack of an enzyme in those people who are carriers of the gene and who eat these legumes. With an exception for these people, fava beans are an extraordinarily healthy food.

      But there are also positive opinions connected to fava beans. According to popular belief, if you find a bean pod with seven seeds you will begin a period of great luck. For those who cultivate a vegetable garden, it is also good to know that planting rows of fava beans between other vegetables, or rotating crops with fava beans, contributes to the enrichment of nitrogen in the soil. The practice of making green manure is also widespread, which in the cultivation of fava and other legumes consists exactly of ploughing the plants under to increase the fertility of the soil.

      In Apulia, in the winter, you can use dried fava beans to make, among other things purée of fava with chicory, one of the most famous dishes in popular tradition. Fresh fava beans are traditionally eaten raw with marzotica (a typical cheese from Salento that is hard and salty), but there is also a purée of fresh fava beans, served with chicory from Galatina; this last one is a typical Springtime dish, very pleasing and delicate, the opposite of its robust winter relative.

 

Chicory

      In Salento the chicory of Galatina is traditionally served and consumed raw, together with fennel and celery. These are the so called subbra taula (on the table) which is the name given to raw vegetables that are consumed at the end of a meal in place of fruit, rigorously accompanied with Negroamaro or Primitivo wine. Almost certainly this custom was brought to Salento by the Spaniards under the reign of Charles V, together with the introduction of Catalan chicory which has taken the appellation of Galatina chicory. The Spaniards, who called this custom sobre mesa (with the same meaning) inherited it themselves from the Arabs. Throughout the Middle East, it is customary to serve all available vegetables of the season with hummus, a purée of chick peas flavored with tahine (sesame butter).

      The Galatina varietal of chicory, like other typical varietals used in Roman and Campania cuisine, produces a heart, called puntarelle. To obtain the puntarelle, a vegetative propagation technique called forcing is used, which also whitens the puntarelle. This same technique is also used with radicchio.

      To harvest the chicory, the plant stalk is cut at the soil line; the plant will grow back from its stub with individual puntarelle. This type of chicory is called allacqua (by water) since it is picked during the hot months, and therefore needs to be abundantly irrigated.

  

Recipe

 

4 servings:

 

- fresh fava beans (already peeled): 500 g

- chicory: 300 g

- 1 potato

- 1 onion

- 1 stalk of celery

- extra virgin olive oil: to taste

- salt. pepper

- smoked bacon, cubed: 100 g (optional)

 

      Julienne the hearts of chicory and soak them in a bowl filled with water and ice.

      Peel and dice the potato and onion into small pieces.

      Blanche the shelled fava beans for a few minutes in boiling water to facilitate the removal of the outer skin.

      Put the peeled fava beans, diced vegetables, and celery stalk in a pot and add just enough water to cover them. Add salt to taste and cook for 15 minutes on a low fire. Remove celery stalk and purée what remains until it has a creamy consistency.

      If you choose the bacon option, sauté the bacon cubes in a pan with a little olive oil while the vegetable mixture is cooking.

      Before serving, sprinkle the fava purèe with the raw julienned chicory and cubes of bacon, drizzle with olive oil, and add a dash of pepper. Alternatively, the chicory can be boiled without being julienned

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