Home on the range

American spring is here

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1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

Crisp:
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a wide skillet. Add smashed garlic and let it sizzle, flavoring the oil. Add bread in a single layer. Cook until golden and crisp, turning once, about 2 minutes per side. Set crisp toasts on a baking sheet. Set aside.

Shell:
Snap off the top of a fava bean and pull its "string" down the side. Slide a finger along this seam, opening the pod. Slide a thumb along the spongy inner pod, releasing the beans, each wearing a pale jacket that looks like a scuba suit, tailored for a bean. Repeat with remaining pods. Pull up a chair; this takes a while.

Blanch:
Heat a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Tumble in the fava beans. Stir. In 1-2 minutes the jackets will turn translucent, revealing bright green inner beans. Drain beans. Drop them into a bowl of ice water. Drain again.

Shell:
Now it's time to slip off those jackets. Use a thumbnail to nick the jacket along its outer seam. Squeeze, popping out a bright green fava bean. Repeat with remaining beans. Find that chair. Amazingly, 2 pounds of favas in the pod yields 1 cup naked beans. Your compost will appreciate the castoffs.

Soften:
In a medium skillet, heat remaining ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and chopped garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add beans. Barely cover beans with water, about 1/3 cup. Cook, stirring regularly, until beans turn tender, 5-10 minutes. Stir in mint and parsley.

Heat:
Reheat toasts by sliding the baking sheet into a 400-degree oven for a few minutes. Spoon fava bean mixture onto each toast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy. You earned it.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.
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