I spend a lot of time in bookstores. Since I was a child, being in a library or a giant bookstore has always been an escape for me. I love books of all kinds, and nothing entertains me more than reading someone’s story. Cookbooks, now more than ever, are more than just a collection of recipes. They often contain keys to what made a chef chase his or her passion, and their love of food goes beyond what they chose to do for a living.
Recently, I spotted “Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine” by Lidia Bastianich on a bookshelf, right underneath a collection of Julia Child’s work. Oddly enough, I found the book to be an Italian take on what Julia did to bring classic French food to the American kitchen.
Beyond just a collection of recipes, Bastianich explains (in great detail) every ingredient essential to Italian cuisine. As you all may know, there’s more to Italian food than tomatoes and pasta – seasonal produce, fresh seafood, meats of all kinds, and (of course) the usual cast of characters.
The very first recipe in the book, an appetizer, appealed to me on every level. It’s simple, with very few ingredients, and takes minutes to prepare. I omitted the sesame seeds and chose to serve this less as a dip and more of a topping for crostini.
Fava and Sesame Dip
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled
1/2 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed and peeled
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shelled favas, blanch until bright green and tender – 5 to 7 minutes. Cool in a bowl of ice water, then peel off the skins to collect the favas. You should end up with around 2 cups.
In a food processor, combine the beans with the sesame seeds (if you choose to keep them in the recipe), lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Turn the machine on and slowly add the olive oil to create a thick paste. Add warm water to achieve the desired consistency you wish. It should end up like hummus.
Season with more salt if you like, then slather this on some toasted bread or serve as a dip with breadsticks.