Fava Bean Israeli Couscous

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a few hours later: rusty fava bean water. weird. and here’s good ol’ Harold McGee to explain it

Fava Bean Israeli Couscous

Inspired by David Lebovitz

Note: This was my first time buying fresh fava beans at the farmer’s market and I wasn’t sure exactly how to choose–old and fat or young and skinny? So I just picked a medley to compare and the verdict is go with the nice plump ones. They are equally creamy regardless of size. Some say that the old ones can be bitter but this early in spring I doubt there are any granny beans out there so that shouldn’t be a problem. If you pick the skinny ones, the proportion of inedible pod to bean is much greater and after you remove the waxy skin you are left with next to nothing. [Update: after some research it turns out the young beans don’t need any peeling! The pod to bean ratio still holds though, I think.]

Regarding the anchovies, I had a can open in my fridge (from making pasta last week) so I thought why not. Be warned though: it adds a funkiness to the salad that may not be for everyone, particularly people who don’t like fish because it is noticeable (but barely so). I personally like the umami it brings and the lemon and cilantro do wonders to cut the funkiness, but feel free to leave it out.

1 lb fresh fava beans, shelled

2/3 cup israeli couscous

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fruity olive oil

2 anchovy fillets, minced to paste (optional)

2 tablespoons capers

1 tablespoon caper juice

3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

juice of 1/2 small lemon

1 tablespoon of cilantro, minced (I think fresh dill would be lovely as well)

salt, to taste

  1. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the fava beans and let it simmer for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a medium bowl and fill it halfway with cold water. Using a mesh skimmer (like the type you use for deep frying), transfer the beans to the bowl of cold water. Don’t discard the boiling water in the pot.
  2. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water and bring it back to a rolling boil. Add the israeli couscous and cook it according to the package instructions, about 8-10 minutes. When it is finished, drain and transfer to a medium bowl. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and toss to coat each grain.
  3. Peel the waxy skin off each bean and set the peeled beans aside.
  4. Microwave the garlic and remaining tablespoon of olive oil together for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the shelled fava beans, garlic oil, anchovies, capers, caper juice, pine nuts, cinnamon, lemon juice, cilantro and salt to the bowl of couscous. Mix thoroughly and serve.

Fun facts: Israeli couscous is also called “ptitim.” It is actually a pasta rolled into little balls so it looks like a grain. How tricky.


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