Welcomed as a sign of spring in Tuscany fava beans start to pop up everywhere in the month of March. They are commonly enjoyed with fresh, young sheep’s milk cheese known as pecorino. The most common cheese in Tuscany, pecorino, is available fresh and unaged only in the springtime. Because the sheep have no fresh grass to eat in the winter they are not milked. Once February arrives grasses emerge and the sheep are well-fed, milking commences and the early sping cheese is sold fresh. 1-2 months past March aged pecorino will be available, the beans will also be bigger and tougher, and this salad will taste completely different.
Preparing favas are a bit time consuming since you must shell them and then peel them — except in the early springtime when the beans are young and tender, there is no need to peel their inner skins. In Italy the work is regarded as an opportunity to talk with a friend.
If you can’t locate fresh pecorino substitute semi-firm goat’s milk cheese.
3 pounds (1.3 kilograms) fresh fava beans
10 ounces (300 grams) fresh pecorino, chopped into small squares
zest of 1 lemon
juice of ½ lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt & pepper
Italian bread (optional)
Pull the strings on the sides of the pods and remove the beans. If the beans are young and fresh there won’t be a string yet so just run your fingernail along the seam to open.
Boil in water for about 45 seconds then drain and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process. If they are tender, springtime beans there is no need to peel the skins. Taste one and see if it is tough. If it is then you’ll need to peel the thin skin from the beans.
Add all ingredients except bread to a large bowl and toss gently. Season with salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste.
The salad is often served with bread as an antipasti. Read more about Tuscan cheese here.
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