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Recipes from the Balducci Vault

Emily Balducci Apr 26 , 2016

Welcome to a new feature where we mine the Balducci family recipe vault to introduce some of the most delicious regional Italian dishes out there.  Our inaugural post comes from copywriter, Emily Balducci, who happens to be something of a Balducci family historian.  She’s also an incredibly good cook.  We recently ate this dish and can attest to its deliciousness.

 

Dried Fava Bean and Chicory Soup

Dried fava beans are a staple in the Apulian region of southern Italy and are one of the signature ingredients in cucina povera - Italian peasant food. Today there’s nothing cheap about them – dried fava beans are expensive whether you buy them whole or already peeled and split (Bob’s Red Mill has a great ready-to-cook version). But considering that a little goes a long way and that they produce a hearty, rib-sticking dish, dried favas are not that costly. The fact that they are also high in lean protein, thiamin and fiber makes dried fava beans a value-added plus legume.                                      Makes 6-8 servings

 

Fresh dandelion is necessary to complete this dish Barese-style, the way it’s cooked in Bari – the capital of Apulia. Few other leafy greens have the required bitterness to counter dried fava’s starchy-sweet, pasty consistency.

 

A swirl of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper are all you need to finish the dish.  It’s worth featuring on your menu, especially in early spring when wild dandelion is peaking and nights are still cool.     

 

¼ c. extra virgin olive oil + ½ c more

1 large onion, diced

2 celery stalks, diced

½ c. Italian parsley, chopped (small bunch whole)

Sprinkle Maldon sea salt

1 pound peeled, split dried fava beans, rinsed

2 ½ quarts water (or 2 quarts water + 2 cups of vegetable stock or broth)

1 small potato, peeled and quartered (optional)

2 bunches dandelion (bottoms trimmed), washed and chopped coarsely

Freshly ground black pepper

More e.v. olive oil for drizzling

 

Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over medium heat half a minute and add onion, celery and parsley.

 

Sprinkle salt on top and cook about 3-4 minutes until fragrant.

 

Add fava beans, pour liquid on top and cover pot.

 

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and cover pot. Let cook at a strong simmer (or gentle boil) for 1 ½ hours (checking now and then and removing cover periodically if not thickening enough to let some liquid evaporate).

 

Add quartered potato at this point, if desired. It makes soup a little smoother and thicker.

 

When liquid is partially absorbed (after 1 ½ hrs. or so) place chopped dandelion on top of beans and liquid. Cover pot and continue simmering another half hour, checking now and then and stirring wilted dandelion down into the thickening soup.

 

Add last ½ cup olive oil, ground pepper and cook 10 minutes more with cover on. 

 

Serve with only a light swirl of really good e.v.o.o.  (Frantoio is perfect) and grind more black pepper on top if desired.

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