FAVA BEAN AND PANCETTA RAGOÛT

        And with this recipe you’ll be in step with the increasing population of fava bean eaters, also the new fans of pancetta, Italy’s unsmoked bacon available in most good delicatessens.  But you must love those fava beans because they’re demanding critters, shelling and peeling them will take forever.  Of course you can always take a ringside seat for Jim Lehrer while you’re slaving, or pop a Mahler symphony into that microwave in your hi fi corner. Seriously, though, you can match cooking times to favorite recordings: two rather large chicken breasts will emerge from their pot of boiling water in perfect condition having marched to their destination neck and neck with Hans Knappertsbusch’s Vienna recording of Brahms’ Tragic Overture.  Baked yams of perfect squishyness equal an average tempo’d Shostakovich Fifth, and lamb shanks, I’d say, will win you stars if matched to an uncut second act of Die Walkuere.

        Pinoli toasting in a little pan might, however, outrun Chopin’s Minute Waltz, which usually takes closer to two.

 

Shell 2 pounds of fava beans and blanch them for about 5 minutes in boiling water; then drain them and when they’re cool enough to handle peel the tough outer skin (although some fava bean eaters don’t mind it).

In a skillet fry a dozen or so little oblongs of pancetta or slab bacon, adding after a couple of minutes half a small chopped onion for softening in a bit of olive oil.  When the bacon is virtually done add a tablespoon of tomato paste diluted with 1-1/2 cups of dry vermouth and simmer all for 2 or 3 minutes, until some of the liquid evaporates.

Now add the beans, 2 minced garlic cloves and some chopped parsley and warm your ragoût, with the skillet covered, for 5 or 6 minutes — except that if your favas happen to be senior citizens they’ll take considerably longer to soften sufficiently for a good dining experience.  Serve the finished product over French bread toasts.

ALTERNATIVE:  You could reduce the bacon content or eliminate it altogether and frame the tomato’d fave with Italian sausages, even puréeing the beans, adding milk as for mashed potatoes . . . another option is Two Bean Salad: simply mix some shelled, peeled, steamed favas with the string beans and pine nuts of the vinaigrette several recipes back.

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