FAVA BEAN PUREE WITH PRESERVED MUSTARD GREENS
SERVES 6 TO 8 AS AN APPETIZER
Dishes made with fava beans (or broad beans) are popular in Shanghainese restaurants, served as a part of other assorted small bites before a meal. Fresh fava beans make regular appearances at local greenmarkets in the Bay Area, and whenever I see them, I grab several pounds for my grandmother, who immigrated decades ago but still thinks of fava beans affectionately as a Shanghainese vegetable. Though it is a lot of work, she shells and peels each bean by hand, so that an entire bagful yields only a handful of tender beans—which she nimbly transforms into this nostalgic recipe from her childhood that she has passed on to me.
The preserved mustard greens are easy to make on your own, and they give this fresh vegetal dip a great briny finish. Preserved mustard greens can be purchased in most Asian groceries in a pinch, but the pickling process is easy, similar to making sauerkraut, and the end result is sweet, salty, and crunchy.
FOR THE PRESERVED MUSTARD GREENS:
1 pound fresh mustard greens, tough stems and inedible rough leaves discarded, remainder coarsely chopped
Sea salt, for pickling the greens
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
FOR THE FAVA BEAN PUREE:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled and peeled (2½ to 3 cups peeled beans)
½ cup chicken broth or water Asian sesame oil, to taste
Rice crackers, for dipping (optional)
MAKE THE PRESERVED MUSTARD GREENS: In a large pickling jar, pack a tight layer of the leaves and sprinkle the leaves liberally with sea salt. Repeat the layers, packing firmly, until the jar is full. Cover the mustard greens with water, and then add the vinegar (to prevent mold) to top off the jar. Cover it tightly, and shake it a couple of times so that the vinegar is evenly distributed throughout the jar.
Let the jar sit, unrefrigerated, for at least 3 days; the amount of time it takes to pickle will vary according to the temperature— anywhere from 3 days in the summer heat to 10 days in the winter cold. The greens are ready when they have turned completely brown. Drain the water from the greens and transfer the greens to their own jar. (You will have about 1 cup preserved greens; they will keep refrigerated for up to a year, like sauerkraut or pickles.)
MAKE THE FAVA BEAN PUREE: Finely chop the preserved mustard greens to yield about ¼ cup. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Once it is sizzling, add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped preserved greens and sauté for another minute. Add the fava beans and sauté for 2 more minutes, until they start to brown around the edges. Add the chicken broth, cover the wok, and simmer over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the fava beans are tender.
Remove the wok from the heat, and mash the fava beans right in the wok with a potato masher or the back of a spoon until the desired texture is reached. (I prefer a hummus-like texture, but some people like it smoother or chunkier.) Spoon the fava bean puree into a serving dish and drizzle it lightly with sesame oil. Serve with rice crackers if desired.