Recipe: Warm Parmesan Fava Beans With Shallots And Mint In Fast, Fresh & Green, Susie Middleton demonstrates that sometimes a few flavorful gestures are all you need. Among the many outstanding produce books you'll find this year, this one's the sleeper hit.

Recipe: Warm Parmesan Fava Beans With Shallots And Mint

From 'Fast, Fresh & Green'

Fast, Fresh & Green
by Susie Middleton
Paperback, 224 pages
Chronicle Books
List price: $24.95

Serves 2 or, with crostini, 4

Quick fava beans -- that's an oxymoron, as my friend Debbie likes to say. It's true that shelling fava beans and then blanching them to remove their outer skin is time-consuming. And after all that, you wind up with a very small pile of beans, though you started with an impressive pile of gangly pods. These are probably reasons enough not to include fava beans in this book, except that I love them! (And, of course, if you do come across some, you'll want to know what to do with them.) They are about as fresh and green as it gets, and the nutty flavor is incomparable.

To make things easier, I've suggested a simple and tasty preparation for them (they only spend a minute or so in a saute pan after blanching and peeling). I've also suggested a way to stretch this dish -- serving it on toasted bread -- if you want to share your fava beans with more than one person. The favas-on-crostini option makes a nice appetizer, too.

Occasionally, you'll find already-shelled favas in specialty groceries, and this saves a little time (although they're not as fresh). Otherwise, just relax and give into the peaceful pleasure of shucking and peeling, or enlist the help of a young sous-chef to do this while you fix the rest of dinner. I probably don't have to tell you that you could sip a nice glass of Chianti while you're prepping.

2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 lbs. fava beans in the pod
4 slices baguette (about 1/2 in thick and 3 in long; optional)
Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing the bread (optional)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
3 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1. Fill a large saucepan halfway with water and 2 tsp of the salt. Bring the water to a boil. Put a few cups of ice in a medium mixing bowl and fill the bowl with cold water. Set a hand-held mesh strainer near the stove. Shuck the favas (remove the beans from their long, bulky pods). Put all of the favas in the boiling water and start timing immediately.

2. Cook the favas for 2 minutes if all of the beans are small, or 3 minutes if some or all of the beans are older and bigger. Turn off the heat, use the mesh strainer to transfer the favas to the ice-water bath, and let sit for a minute or two. Drain the ice water. Remove the outer coating of each fava by pinching one end of the bean and popping or slipping the bean out of the skin. (The two halves of the bean may separate.)

3. If serving on crostini, brush the top of each baguette slice with about 1/ tsp olive oil and grill or broil until lightly golden.

4. In a medium (10-inch) skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until the shallots are softened and lightly browned (don’t brown too much, as they become bitter), about 2 minutes. Add the fava beans and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and cook, stirring, just until the fava beans are heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sherry vinegar and toss the beans. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1/2 tbsp of the mint and 2 1/2 tbsp of the Parmigiano.

5. Transfer the favas to a serving dish or dinner plates or pile them loosely over and around the grilled bread. Garnish with the remaining 1/2 tbsp mint and 1/2 tbsp Parmigiano. Serve warm.

Excerpted from Fast, Fresh & Green by Susie Middleton. Copyright 2010. Reprinted by permission of Chronicle Books.