Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love and home of the famed Liberty Bell, counts Marc Vetri as one of its most prominent chefs. Vetri, who trained in Bergamo, Italy and received the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” in 2005, opened his eponymous, fine-dining restaurant in a charming Philadelphia townhouse in 1998. Since, he has opened three more restaurants – Osteria, Amis, and Alla Spina – and has written two cookbooks – Il Viaggio di Vetri and Rustic Italian Food – making him an important force in the Philadelphia restaurant scene.
Personally, I am a huge fan of Vetri’s restaurants, where the traditional Italian fare recalls the simple, rustic dishes of northern Italy while still being fresh and innovative. I have had many a meal at his restaurants and, though I do not own his first cookbook, I do own his most recent one, Rustic Italian Food. After flipping through the cookbook’s mouthwatering pages on a number of occasions, I thought it was about time I cook a recipe or two.
Now that it’s April, and spring produce is on its way, I was eager to choose a recipe that embodied the beauty and bounty of spring. I instantly gravitated towards the lima bean salad with shaved red onion. However, given that I love fava beans (and happened upon them at Eataly), I decided to substitute fava beans for lima beans. Apart from shelling, blanching, and re-shelling the fava beans (it’s worth it, I promise!), the recipe took little time to toss together. The flavors are fresh, the colors are vibrant, and the salad is perfect by itself or served over a thick, crusty slice of bread. It turned out beautifully and left me craving more.
Fava Bean Salad with Shaved Red Onion (from Rustic Italian Food)
2 1/2 cups shelled fava beans (about 2 1/2 pounds in the pod)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small red onion, sliced as thinly as possible
2 tsp chopped fresh mint
2 tsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
3/4 cup shaved or grated pecorino cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the fava beans and blanch for 1 minute, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. When cool, pinch open the pale green skin and pop out the deep green inner fava beans. You should have about 2 cups.
Put the vinegar in a medium serving bowl and gradually whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream until incorporated. Add the fava beans, onion, mint, parsley, and pepper flakes and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
Just before serving, top with shaved pecorino.
Note: you can blanch and peel the fava beans 1 day in advance and keep them covered in the refrigerator.