Fava Beans and Café Dreams:
Cloudless skies and sun-ripened fruit were not our only motivations for moving to Berkeley. Topping our list was a dream to open a little café, where I would cook simple, beautiful food and Alejandro would woo the guests with his charming ways. We’d have a garden out back, a patio in front, with a handpicked wine list and fair-trade Colombian coffee. This past weekend, we came one step closer to accomplishing our goal.
At first Berkeley was the ideal location, but we’ve widened our scope to include the smaller, tighter communities dotted along route 1. The first stop was the quaint beachside village of Half Moon Bay. After meandering around Main Street, we came to the Saturday Farmers’ Market. This quickly became a favorite of the Bay Area markets – how can it not be, when even the town’s mayor has a stand? Locals know him as Farmer John. He and his wife Eda grow giant pumpkins, colorful flowers and outstanding vegetables from Italian seeds on Daylight Farm. Besides the display of fava beans, potatoes, basil and lettuce, what impressed me most was his warm welcome, friendly smile and willingness to chat about his bounty.
Next we picked up a chicken from Greenhearts Family Farm, where farmers Paul and Aurora spoke with me about the leap from corporate living to growing food and raising chickens. The pair spent years learning farming methods in New Zealand, and classify their crops as “artisan organics.” Their heirloom seeds flourish in naturally enriched soil, without chemicals or plastic mulch. The chicken we cooked up from them was tender, juicy and gave us piece of mind knowing it came from conscious, responsible farmers.
Oftentimes, the people behind the stands in Berkeley and Oakland aren’t the farmers, and offer little information on how the vegetables are grown, if they talk to you at all. I don’t mean to knock my local markets, because this isn’t always the case. But it was a nice change to find people passionate about what they sell. It gave me a good feeling.
The recipe for today combines Farmer John’s fava beans, créme fraiche from Cowgirl Creamery, along with rustic olive bread and mushroom oil from Phoenix Pastificio. The oil is a new item from Pastificio. They combine quality Italian olive oil with four types of crushed mushrooms. It’s incredible. I want to drizzle it on everything I eat. This dish will definitely be a recurring item on our cafe’s menu.
Olive Crostini with Roasted Garlic Créme Fraiche and Fava Beans
Loaf of rustic olive bread, sliced along the diagonal
1 head of garlic
About 2 pounds of fava beans
Handful of fresh parsley
Mushroom olive oil (or regular if you can’t find mushroom)
Sea salt, fresh ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 425F. Chop off the top of a head of garlic, sprinkle with salt and olive oil. Cover with foil and roast in the oven, cut side up, for 45 minutes. Remove from foil and let cool. Meanwhile, prepare the fava beans.
Shell the fava beans and blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds. Submerge in ice water, then drain. Peel again exposing the bright green beans inside. Heat up a sauté pan and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Sauté the fava beans on medium-high heat for about 10 minutes. Don’t stir for the first four minutes – let the beans get slightly brown. Add salt, pepper and chopped parsley. Turn off heat.
Arrange the slices of olive bread on a baking sheet. Brush a thin layer of mushroom oil on top. Bake at 350F for ten minutes. Put the oven on broil, and broil for about one minute on each side. Be careful bread doesn’t burn.
Squeeze the roasted garlic into a small bowl. Add a generous amount of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of sea salt. Stir well, breaking up the garlic as you do so. Taste for salt, the créme fraiche should no longer taste sweet.
Spread the créme fraiche on the olive bread slices, and top with fava beans. Drizzle mushroom oil over each slice.
Where I Shopped:
Rustic Olive Bread and Mushroom Oil: Sunday Farmers’ Market, Temescal (Oakland), Phoenix Pastificio
Fava beans, garlic, parsley: Half Moon Bay Farmers’ Market, Farmer John’s Daylight Farms
Cowgirl Creamery Organic Creme Fraiche: Star Grocery, Berkeley