I can be horribly impatient. It’s something few people, save those who’ve had the (mis)fortune of living with me, know. You might not suspect this from someone who makes speckled Easter eggs just for fun, but I assure you, fickle as it may be, my impatience runs deep. Some examples:
- 1. I am a terrible painter. Be it a bookcase or a bedroom, it’s all disaster here. I literally CANNOT WAIT to see the finished result, which means I CANNOT WAIT for the damn paint to dry, which means I end up with drips and smudges and smears of paint on things I had never originally intended to paint, like the dog and the new bedspread.
- 2. My house is furnished almost entirely by IKEA. Yes ok, this is partly because I’m 27, and haven’t been out of college long enough to justify spending the ridiculously enormous sums of money shopping at other furniture stores requires. But, mostly this is because with IKEA you don’t have to wait. You can see it, buy it, take it home, assemble it, (receive an honorary degree in engineering), and sit on it all in the same day. When we found out that the dining room table we purchased in October (not from IKEA) wouldn’t be delivered in time for Thanksgiving OR Christmas (when, I don’t know, you might actually need a dining room table), I had to be talked down from a ledge. 8 to 10 weeks, and I’m told this is normal. By the time the bleeping table finally arrived (in January), I’d all but forgotten about it.
- 3. I have a bad habit of undercooking things. Sure, I overcook them too, but everyone does that from time to time. If the food is not ready when I’m ready to eat, I take personal offense: the recipe has clearly conspired to ruin my evening, and I won’t stand for it. I’ve been known to carefully cut out the center of an underdone cake instead of wait 15 minutes for the thing to finish baking.
- 4. I secretly kind of hate fava beans. Sure, they’re pretty and they taste good and they remind me of spring, but they are needy people, NEEDY. Incase you’ve never dealt with favas before, let me bring you up to speed: approximately 75 percent of this bean is inedible, and what is edible needs to be peeled not once, but twice. Think the legume form of an artichoke. Recipes that call for favas in abandon make me wince – great bowls of pureed fava spread for example; sounds great sure, but only if you have your very own dedicated staff of fava peelers on hand.
And that brings me around to today’s recipe – a simple spring inspired soup which uses favas as, I would argue, they were intended to be used: in small quantities. You’re not going to make a full meal out of these babies unless you quit your day job, so tread lightly when it comes to spring’s favorite vegetable. Once you’ve dealt with your fava beans, this soup comes together in no time at all. Sautee some spring onions and garlic, add your stock and pasta, then the fava beans and the spinach. That’s it. While the soup cooks, you stir up a tasty mint and preserved lemon pesto which, spooned over each bowl, makes all the flavors sing.
The style here is similar to French “soup au pistou,” a summer peasant-style vegetable soup which is finished with fresh pesto. The pesto adds a huge burst of flavor and complexity to what would otherwise be a fairly plain soup – a great technique for building layers of flavor for quick cooking foods like spring and summer vegetables and pasta. I can also imagine taking this dish in a different direction by skipping the broth and simply tossing the orzo and vegetables together with the pesto – warm or room temperature, this would be a perfect picnic dish. Either way, I recommend making a double batch of the pesto here to use through the week – it’s absolutely delicious tossed it with grilled asparagus or zucchini; on lamb, chicken, or fish; or just plainly spread on thick slabs of grilled bread.
Serves 4 as a main dish with bread and salad or 6-8 as a starter.
Spring Orzo Soup with Favas
- 24 medium size fava bean (about 1 cup shelled) – replace with 1 cup shelled peas, fresh or frozen if you’re not in the mood to deal with the favas.
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bunch spring onions or baby leeks, roughly chopped
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- 1 ½ cups orzo
- 3 cups good tasting chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 large handfuls baby spinach, washed and trimmed
- Salt and pepper to taste
Put a medium pot of salted water onto boil. Meanwhile, shell the fava beans and set up an ice bath (a medium bowl of ice water.) Blanch the shelled fava beans in boiling water 1 minute and, using a slotted spoon, transfer to the ice bath. Save the pot of boiling water for the orzo. Once cool, pop the beans out of their skins and set aside.
Set a large deep skillet or medium soup pan over low-medium heat and add the olive oil. Sautee the onions and garlic until soft and aromatic – 3 to 5 minutes. Keep the heat low so as not to brown the onions.
Meanwhile, bring the water you used for the favas back to a boil. Add the orzo and cook 3-4 minutes. (I like to par-cook the pasta here so it doesn’t absorb too much of the stock.) Drain and set aside.
Once the onions are softened, add the par cooked orzo and the stock to the pan. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Cook an additional 3-5 minutes just until the orzo is tender. At this point, turn off the heat and add the prepared fava beans (or peas if you go that route) and the spinach. Stir and cover the pot. Leave to sit 2 minutes until the spinach is wilted and the favas are warmed. Taste for seasoning and add a little salt and pepper – keep in mind the pesto is salty.
Preserved Lemon and Fresh Mint Pesto
- 1 carton fresh mint (3/4 oz), leaves only – well washed
- 6-8 baby spinach leaves, washed and trimmed
- ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
- 1 small garlic glove, minced
- 3 tsp preserved lemon rind, rinsed and chopped (or more to your taste)*
- Small pinch salt
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2-3 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
*I love the flavor of preserved lemons, but if they are not something you keep on hand, feel free to replace with a little grated lemon zest and juice to your taste.
Combine the mint, spinach, almonds, garlic, preserved lemon, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to chop and combine. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil to form a paste. Scrape down the sides of the processor, add the cheese, and pulse once again to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. The pesto can be kept covered and refrigerated up to 2 weeks.
Divide the soup among 4 large soup bowls (or 6-8 if serving as a starter) and top each with a generous spoonful of the pesto and a few chopped scallions or chives. Serve at once.