I haven't been cooking much lately. I bought some nice, fresh produce at the Coop this Sunday, one ear of corn, a bunch of purple kale (which I've never tried before), a handful of crimini mushrooms, and some fresh fava beans, but even the thought of all that produce in my fridge couldn't tempt me home to cook dinner alone on Tuesday, and I went out for beer and sausages with Lina and Leslie. I've been feeling a little subdued lately. Part of it is work-related; I got some bad news for one of my favorite clients. And part of it is a little fear about my upcoming trip, not so much about being in Spanish-speaking countries for six months when I can barely say, "Me llamo Grace," but whether I will come back with any more clarity about my life.
Luckily, fresh fava beans demand so much attention, you have to focus to the exclusion of all other thoughts, even an overdue response to a motion to dismiss. They really are too much work when you're not paying someone else to shell and cook them, but for me, they say "spring" almost more than any other vegetable and I couldn't resist them. And on a Wednesday night, coming home around 8 pm, I still managed to get dinner on the table by 8:30.
First you shell them. Whenever I discard the pods, I feel so wasteful. Not only do I end up discarding a good three-quarters of the weight I paid for, the pods are so spongy and soft, they feel like they should be useful in some other way, like filler for seat cushions or something. Then you blanch them, letting them cool long enough so you can handle them. Then you have to slit their little opaque skins and squeeze out the tiny, bright green beans inside. It's almost a joke when you look at the handful of beans you have and the bag of empty pods. Mmm, $1.94 per pound!
But the little buggers tasted so good, especially with pancetta and meaty crimini mushrooms. It wasn't planned. I just had some pancetta in the freezer, which was older than I'd like to admit, and the mushrooms I had bought on a whim. While the water for the pasta boiled and the mushrooms and pancetta were cooking, I squeezed the little green babies out of their skins, giving the mushrooms a stir every once in awhile. The mushrooms got so infused with pancetta fat they started to taste like pork, so the fava beans were the perfect counterpoint, so green I could just feel the vitamins bursting from them. A shaving of parmesan, also older than I'd like to admit, rounded out the dish.
It would have been better with a small, shaped pasta, like orecchiette or those ruffly ones, but the spaghetti was good enough for conveying the salty, fatty, green taste of spring.