This brightly orange-colored soup is inspired by the fresh fava bean soup that Rivka Levy-Mellul, author of “La Cuisine Juive Marocaine,” remembers as the first course of her childhood Seders in Morocco. The authentic dish is a substantial soup made with quite a lot of meat, but this is a super delicious vegetarian version. Although one might think that the fava bean would create a pale green soup, the addition of carrots and turmeric kick it up a notch, both in flavor and in color!
You might be asking…what is a fava bean? Well, these pale green beans housed in big floppy pods have been a beloved early spring food across the planet for centuries. Favas — also known as Windsor beans, English beans, horse beans and pigeon beans — have long been diet staples in Asia, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and Europe. These ancient beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants and among the easiest to grow. The beans have a buttery texture, slight bitterness and lovely, nutty flavor. And after a long, dark winter, their fresh green color pushes you right into spring. Also, favas are nutrition superheroes. They are high in fiber and iron, and low in sodium and fat. They have no cholesterol but so much protein, they are called the meat of the poor. As a matter of fact, Italians credit the fava bean as a factor in saving Sicilians from starvation during a time of famine. Since then, the fava has been considered good luck. Now that luck – and magic – is being enjoyed at more American tables.
- 2 pounds fresh fava beans or 1/2 pound frozen double-peeled (2 cups)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned and sliced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 medium or large carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
- 1 small potato (about 4 ounces), peeled and diced
- 2 quarts water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
- Sea salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro plus additional leaves for garnish
1. Skin the fresh favas: bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Drop the shelled fava beans into the boiling water and boil 5 minutes. Drain and transfer immediately to the cold water. Allow the beans to cool for several minutes, then slip off their skins by pinching off the eye of the skin and squeezing gently. Hold several beans in one hand and use your other thumb and forefinger to pinch off the eyes, have a bowl for the shelled favas close at hand and this will not take very long.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the leeks, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes, and add the turnips, potatoes, favas, water or stock, salt and bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.
3. Purée the soup using a hand blender or a food mill, or working in batches, in a blender, making sure that you place a towel over the top of the blender and remove the inner part of the lid to avoid hot splashes. Return to the pot, add the pepper, turmeric and chopped cilantro and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring often, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Serve in wide soup bowls, garnished with cilantro leaves and with a drizzle of olive oil over each serving.
Yield: 8 servings.
Advance preparation: You can make the soup through Step 2 up to two days before serving. Refrigerate before puréeing. When you wish to serve, purée the soup, then reheat and proceed with the recipe.