Chef's Blog

Solage Calistoga's Executive Chef Brandon Sharp shares his passion for cooking, life and all things Napa Valley.

April 13, 2010

They look like blue lake beans because Ryder picked them so young, but they are in fact the first baby fava beans from our garden at Fisher Vineyards, fresh this morning.  We put them on the lounge menu at solbar tonight, tempura-fried with ponzu sauce.  Tomorrow they’ll make their way on the dinner menu when we roast them in a saute pan and serve them with seared diver scallops, arrabiatta vinaigrette, persillade, and pine-nut butter.

The fava bean pod shoots out to as long as it’s ever going to be shortly after flowering.  That’s the point we’re picking these beans at, because the pods themselves, which will toughen with fibers as the beans inside it ripen and swell, are now almost as tender as blue lake beans (which are themselves the baby version of flageolet or cannelini beans) and just as sweet. All is takes is a dip in the fryer or a quick sear in hot oil to tenderize them, and most of our guests have never eaten them this way.

The main reason that they haven’t is the same reason that veal is more expensive than beef:  mass.  The favas we’re picking now are about a quarter to a third of their potential size and weight had we let them grow to maturity, and anything that is sold by size or weight is going to be worth much more when massive.  Why would a farmer pick his beans and sell them when he can wait three weeks and triple his production?

Thankfully, we have met the bean pickers in this garden, and they are us.  A rotation of the sous chefs and I will be harvesting the goods as we want them.   Hopefully we don’t decide to mine our own salt or something next year.

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