Italy is a wonderful country to travel around as every region is like a different country with its own regional cuisine, landscape, and dialects. Although I love living in Umbria, if I had to choose another area to live in it would be Puglia. Puglia is a very unique region with some of Italy’s oldest olive trees, an amazing coastline that surrounds the region on three sides, and breathtaking scenery.
One of my favorites things about Puglia is its food as you can find the very freshest seafood just about everywhere due to the close proximity to the ocean, while the interior of Puglia is famous for its agriculture and farming. In the interior you find a lot more meat and vegetable dishes although fresh seafood is always easy to find.
Pugliese cuisine also has its roots in ‘cucina povera”, and this recipe is a very good example of that. It is basically a mash of cooked dried java beans, which is served topped with sautéed cicoria.
I cannot even tell you why, but this dish speaks to me and perhaps it has something to do with loving the simplicity of Italian cuisine, but when prepared well, this simple peasant dish is absolutely delicious. If you are not familiar with it, cicoria (chicory), is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the dandelion family, with a bitter flavor that mellows when you boil it.
We grow cicoria here in our garden in Umbria, but it is becoming much more popilar in North America. Dried fava beans are not as easily found, but you may find them where your grocery store sells other dried legumes. You can also often find them at Italian specialty stores or online sources. For the best flavor, use a good quality extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on the completed dish.
I may be a glutton for punishment, but when traveling through Puglia if I see this dish on the menu, I will often order it and compare it to how I make it at home. Of course I prefer my own version, so I am often not completely thrilled with other versions.
Everyone has their own way of preparing the fave beans, with some versions being a little dry and dense, even with some texture, while I like a texture similar to polenta; smooth and creamy. On our recent trip to Puglia last month, I ordered this dish twice in five days and both versions were quite different. The one thing I decided after eating both, was that I had to make this dish at home as soon as possible and I did so last week.
You can find a myriad of variations for preparing the fave bean mash, some using potatoes and onions, while others are more traditional using just the fave beans. For me, dried fava beans do not have a lot of flavor, so I do not see a problem with adding other ingredients to pump up the flavor. Although I can eat this dish on its own as a vegetarian main course, it is also delicious served with roasted sausages.
- 250 Gram Package Of Dried Fava Beans
- 2 Small Potatoes, Peeled And Sliced
- 1 Large Bunch Cicoria Greens (Dandelion)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Cracked Black Pepper
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Peeled & Minced
- Sea Salt
- Soak the fava beans for at least two hours, then drain, then place the beans in a pot and top with the potatoes.
- Add enough water to cover the beans and potatoes by at least an inch.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for an hour, adding more water as needed.
- Taste the beans and continue to cook until very soft, another 30 minutes or so.
- Drain out any water left and add 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/3 cup olive oil.
- Beat the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth, (or use a hand immersion blender) then set aside.
- Trim the cicoria and cut into 2 to 3 inch pieces.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then add the trimmed greens.
- Cook, stirring every so often until the greens are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Drain well, cool, then squeeze out as much liquid from the greens as possible.
- Add 3 to 4 tablespoon of the oil to the pot with the garlic, some black pepper, pinch of salt and red pepper flakes.
- Cook until the garlic begins to sizzle, a minute or two, and then return the chicory to the pot.
- Toss with two spoons to coat the greens with the olive oil garlic mixture and cook just for a minute or two until the garlic and oil mixture coats the greens.
- Serve a scoop of fava puree on each plate topped with a spoonful of the sautéed chicory.
- Drizzle with a little extra olive oil, and sprinkle with cracked black pepper.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 134Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 208mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 5gSugar: 2gProtein: 6g