Fava bean and mint “torta rustica”

It’s springtime in Los Angeles. The rain seems to be over; the days are getting warmer and longer; plants are growing and flowers blooming all over the place. My vegetable garden is filled with kale, Swiss chard, lettuces and FAVA BEANS!

Garden-fresh fava beans

Fava beans are eaten all over Western Europe and the Middle East and grow well in Southern California’s climate. But fava beans are a lot of work to prepare. First you must free them from their pods. Second, you generally steam them and shock them in ice water. Finally, you free them from their skin which can be tedious. This multi-step process can seem daunting, but the resulting bright green bean is a taste of springtime, well worth all the effort! Favas can brighten up many springtime dishes with their fresh, zesty taste. Along with mint, these beans make a great addition to pasta dishes, salads and this cheese tort.

I recommend you make this tort several days in advance of eating. The flavor improves after a few days tightly wrapped with foil in the fridge.

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Fava bean and mint “torta rustica”


Ingredients

Scale

Crust

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cubed
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup very cold water

Filling

  • 2 lbs or so fresh unshelled fava beans (Note 1)
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 lb whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb whole milk mozzarella, grated (Note 2)
  • 1/2 lb Fontina cheese, grated (Note 2)
  • 1/2 lb Gruyère cheese, grated (Note 2)
  • 6 large eggs (1 reserved)
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

Dough

  1. In a food processor, pulse flour, butter, and salt until butter is pea-size. Slowly add 1/2 cup very cold water through the feed tube and pulse just until dough comes together, adding another tablespoon water if needed. Turn dough onto a work surface and press into a mound. Cut off one-fourth of dough, form both portions into flat disks, wrap airtight in wax paper, and chill at least 2 hour and up to 2 days.

Filling

  1. Prepare an ice water bath. Shell the fava beans discarding the tough husks. Boil the fava beans in salted water for 2 minutes or so until the bright green beans starts to turn pale yellow. Drain the beans and plunge into the ice water bath to cool. Finally, pinch the fava beans and using your fingernail, free the super-green fava bean from the interior shell into a bowl. You might search for a Youtube video to see this process. It’s the love of Italian grandmothers!!
  2. Remove the mint from the stems. Stack the leaves and thinly slice with a sharp knife.
  3. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment installed, add the ricotta cheese and eggs and mix until combined.
  4. Add the remaining cheese and mix to loosely combine. Don’t allow the mixture to become a paste. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust the seasoning.
  5. Finally, add the shelled fava beans and mint and gently combine. Don’t over mix.

Assembly

  1. Place the larger piece of dough on a floured surface. Moving quickly, roll into a circle about 14 in. across. Lay dough in 9-inch springform pan, pressing on bottom and up sides, and allowing excess dough to hang over edge.
  2. Spoon the prepared filling into the dough-lined pan patting it down gently.
  3. Roll out the remaining piece of dough in the same manner as before to form the top crust.
  4. Lay the top crust on the pan. With your fingers, press the edges of dough in the pan and the dough circle. Fold the dough into the spring-form pan so that when you release the torta from the pan, that the crust will not overhang and break.
  5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees with a rack set on lowest level. Whisk an egg yolk with a little water and brush some over top of torta.
  6. Bake until golden brown, about 50 minutes. If the edges begin to brown too fast, cover the torta with a loose piece of aluminum foil.
  7. Let cool on a rack for at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.
  8. Carefully release the torta from the pan, then loosen from the bottom of the pan and lift pan off torta. Cut into wedges and serve at room temperature.

Notes

Note 1: Fresh unshelled fava beans are available in California Farmers Markets in the Spring. If unavailable, use fresh English peas. This dish isn’t worth it if you use frozen favas.

Note 2: Grate these cheeses using the grating disc on your food processor.

Special equipment:
– 9-inch springform pan

 

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