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American spring is here

Fava beans taste of damp, eager, brilliant green spring

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Occupy is a popular theme on many a street corner and park bench.

I've been trying to churn up interest in this idea in my own home, without success.

Fifty percent of our local census, 100 percent of those younger than working age, remain resistant. They do what they need to do: go to school. They do what they are cajoled to do: homework, practice, dishes. Faced with the unscheduled minute, they are stumped.

They're keen on preoccupation — staring at the computer screen or phone screen or movie screen. But engage in spontaneous, bottom-up, leaderless movement? Clueless.

I'm starting a movement called "Occupy Yourself!" It insists that the 99 percent of children unable to amuse themselves figure out how to do so, pronto. Without TV, text or Twitter. No coach, no carpool, no assistant, no accompanist.

For those who can't figure out how to operate a book, pencil or garden trowel, I will provide remedial training by way of fava beans.

Fava beans taste of damp, eager, green spring, season of uprisings. They need to be shelled. Twice. First the thick outer pod, then the pale inner skin. It's a task that takes — minimally — two colanders, two hands and two hours. Which should incentivise the protesters to find something — anything — to do. Solo.

Fava bean crostini

Prep: 1 ½ hours
Cook: 15 minutes
Makes: 12 crostini

Ingredients:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
12 very thin slices French bread
2 pounds fava beans in the pod
Coarse salt
3 small shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh parsley
Freshly ground black pepper

Crisp:
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a wide skillet. Add smashed garlic and let it sizzle, flavoring the oil. Add bread in a single layer. Cook until golden and crisp, turning once, about 2 minutes per side. Set crisp toasts on a baking sheet. Set aside.

Shell:
Snap off the top of a fava bean and pull its "string" down the side. Slide a finger along this seam, opening the pod. Slide a thumb along the spongy inner pod, releasing the beans, each wearing a pale jacket that looks like a scuba suit, tailored for a bean. Repeat with remaining pods. Pull up a chair; this takes a while.

Blanch:
Heat a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Tumble in the fava beans. Stir. In 1-2 minutes the jackets will turn translucent, revealing bright green inner beans. Drain beans. Drop them into a bowl of ice water. Drain again.

Shell:
Now it's time to slip off those jackets. Use a thumbnail to nick the jacket along its outer seam. Squeeze, popping out a bright green fava bean. Repeat with remaining beans. Find that chair. Amazingly, 2 pounds of favas in the pod yields 1 cup naked beans. Your compost will appreciate the castoffs.

Soften:
In a medium skillet, heat remaining ¼ cup olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots and chopped garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add beans. Barely cover beans with water, about 1/3 cup. Cook, stirring regularly, until beans turn tender, 5-10 minutes. Stir in mint and parsley.

Heat:
Reheat toasts by sliding the baking sheet into a 400-degree oven for a few minutes. Spoon fava bean mixture onto each toast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Enjoy. You earned it.

Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at leahreskin@aol.com.
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