Fava beans and pecorino cheese. There is nothing simpler or better as a snack or appetizer. Fava beans were new to me before I went Italy. If you have never seen fava beans, they are large, long pods, inside of which are beans with a buttery flavor. There are lots of recipes using them but I honestly prefer them raw straight from the pod with big shards of aged pecorino cheese. This is a May Day tradition in Italy. Italians head out to the country on this national holiday, enjoy the outdoors and the beautiful spring weather. After a walk or bike ride, there is a picnic that features the bounty of springtime: artichokes, asparagus, strawberries, and of course fava beans. Sometimes Italians place a small bowl of salt alongside for dipping the beans but if fresh, they really don’t need it – the saltiness of the pecorino is a perfect compliment. As with anything, the success of this dish depends on the freshness of the ingredients. If there are only two items in which to depend, I recommend getting the highest quality of each.
Fava beans can sometimes be difficult to find in the US. I found them in the Italian neighborhood of Hartford at D&D Market on Franklin Avenue (a true, fabulous Italian market without the trendy,inflated prices). I placed several pods of beans in my basket and headed to the cheese counter where I was helped by a lovely Italian signora. I asked her for pecorino and she inquired about the recipe I had in mind. When I told her that I was having a May Day dinner with fava beans and pecorino, she immediately began to speak to me in Italian as she knew I must have learned this tradition in Italy and therefore have some knowledge of the language. I was delighted of course and I giggle every time I have fava beans and pecorino as I remember our exchange. Happy May everyone & Happy Spring!