Since eating fava beans for the first time last year, I've come to love the legume as much as the bean-eating crowd. Italians love their beans and Tuscans in particular are known as mangiafagioli or bean-eaters. Among their favorites are cannelini or white beans and fava beans, which are even more popular in Puglia. Favas, or broad beans as they are also known, are prized in their raw or near-raw state, but they are an unusual bean to shell. Each bean is encased in a slip or skin and grouped together in fuzzy pods. So yes, peeling them and blanching them to remove the extra skin may be a chore, but it's really a labor of love.
Here I take my favorite fava beans and combine them with a very herbaceous salad atop a crusty slice of grilled bread lined with wedges of avocado. Texture, flavor, and aroma are very much at play: creamy avocado, granular favas, crunchy bread, and pungent herbs all enrobed in a tangy dressing. To eat this bruschetta, pick it up like an open-faced sandwich and bite right in. It's a fun and casual summer appetizer that will refresh the palate and stimulate the appetite.
Note: Bruschetta refers to the bread and not the topping. For some reason Americans call the topping bruschetta, a mistake that seems to be perpetuated by large grocery chains that sell toppings under that name. Bruschetta (broo-sket-ta) translates to grilled bread and is traditionally a slice of bread rubbed with a clove of garlic, drizzled with olive oil, and grilled. Common toppings in Italy are prosciutto or tomatoes.
Fava Bean, Herb, and Avocado Salad on Bruschetta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shelled fava beans
4 ounces mixed baby greens
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves
4 slices French country bread
1 garlic clove
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine oil, lemon juice, vinegar, maple syrup, and shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk to emulsify.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add fava beans and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and shock in ice water. Remove outer skins and place beans in a large mixing bowl. Add baby greens, parsley, and mint.
Heat a grill pan set over high heat. Rub bread slices with garlic clove and brush or drizzle with olive oil on both sides. Grill until charred with grill lines, about 2 minutes per side. Set grilled bread onto a platter or individual plates.
Cut open avocado. Use a large spoon to scoop out flesh halves. Place on cutting board and slice lengthwise. Top each piece of bread with a few slices of avocado.
Whisk dressing to reincorporate. Drizzle over bowl of favas, greens, and herbs. Toss gently to combine. Divide salad among each piece of bread with avocado slices. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 appetizer servings.