by Zachariah Zendejas
Welcome to KRL’s Chef’s Kitchen, a series of articles that takes us into the kitchens of local chefs where they share not only a personal recipe but a story behind it. This week we are again in the kitchen of Martin Barcellos, chef and owner with his wife Dawn, of Valentino’s Italian Restaurant in Reedley. You’ll find a discount coupon for Valentino’s at the end of this article.
Spring Dish Courtesy of Valentino’s
Fava Cicoire (Fava Chicory)
1 lb. fava beans
2 bunches chicory
½ yellow onion sliced thin
3 cloves garlic (pressed)
¼ cup olive oil
Soak beans overnight (only if dry, if fava beans are fresh then they need not be soaked overnight). Take ¼ cup olive oil and put it in a sizable pot with garlic that has been pressed using a garlic presser and the sliced yellow onion. Sauté until nice and soft then add fava beans, cover with water and then bring it to boil. After beans have been brought to a boil lower down to a simmer and cook for about 2 hours or until soft. In a separate pot cook greens in a cup of water. Salt the chicory (greens) to taste and cook until tender.
Once the fava beans have been cooked until soft, drain water, and if dry favas were used then remove the husk from bean; if favas were fresh then it is not necessary to remove husk because it will be soft, but it goes down to personal preference if you wish to remove the husk. Then use a wooden spoon or smasher and purée beans and add a small amount of olive oil. Then in a soup bowl place two or so scoops of the puréed beans in the bowl, then place some of the greens on top of the fava beans. Serve with a piece of crusty bread. Enjoy.
This makes for a perfect dish for Spring, or a comfort food for those especially cold days. Note that the chicory can be alternated with red or green Swiss chard, spinach, or mustard greens. Also note that the favas cannot be replaced with any other bean, only the chicory if it is not available.
A brief history of the dish that has been provided by the Chef and Owner of Valentino’s Pizzeria and Italian Restaurant Martin Barcellos stems from Barcellos early childhood. Barcellos informed me that the dish originated from Southern Italy and appears differently in many of the cities. Barcellos reminisced about how his grandfather would grow fava beans and chicory in his home garden. “All of the vegetables we ate came from his garden,” says Barcellos. This began around age five, and when it was time to harvest Barcellos and his grandfather would collect the vegetables and take them to the kitchen where they would be prepared by Barcellos’ grandmother for dinner that night.
According to Barcellos, this dish is not commonly found in Italian restaurants if ever. Fava Cicoire is a peasant dish, mainly eaten as a side for a main course of chicken or beef. Because of this dish’s prep and cooking time is the reason as to why restaurants opt not to serve this common Italian dish.
The dish is several generations old in Barcellos family, so much so that he was not able to recall how far back it went in his familial tree. When asked about the substitution of the chicory with other greens he replied that oftentimes people would use whatever they had on hand, which is why the face of the dish varies from city to city in Italy. “Improvise,” says Barcellos, “this isn’t rocket science, it’s cooking.”
Check out Martin’s cooking for yourself-treat yourself to Reedley’s own Valentino’s–their specials are listed on their Facebook page. Check out this special coupon for KRL’s readers!