This dish comes with a bit of a back story, which hopefully you will find amusing or at least commiserate with me.
There was a moment a few weeks ago in which I found myself totally and completely paralyzed, shaking ever-so-gently in fear in the corner of my friend David’s house. Dave is one of my English students, and invited me, along with all his friends and family, to celebrate his birthday at his house a few weeks back. Under the incandescent light of the dining room, his mom served her guests overflowing bowls of steamy pozole, while his sisters fluttered around keeping glasses full of homemade Agua de Jamaica.
Then the tables were broken down and space was made for Dave’s band to play while everyone sat around singing and bobbing along happily. It was perfect. And then they stopped. They put away their instruments. Someone whipped out an ipod. And the salsa music began to pulse out of the speakers. Oh crap, oh crap. There wasn’t nearly enough liquid courage in me to assuage the nerves that began to build inside. I completely froze. Sweat gently began trickling down my back and pearling on my neck. I couldn’t bear the thought of my awkward hips flailing around the dance floor, especially not in front of my students. I adore salsa music, but the whole “dancing” aspect scares the bejesus out of me. Eager to nip the situation in the bud, I found a ride home and hastily excused myself from the scene.
But when I got home I felt a sincere disappointment in myself. I love to dance! I love salsa music! And making a fool of myself comes naturally to me… so why not let my freak flag fly on the dance floor? So the next day, still perturbed by the wave of fear that washed over me at the party, I turned to the interwebs to find a solution. I went directly to an international traveler’s forum and posted a plea for help to the people of Guadalajara : OFFERING ENGLISH CLASSES IN EXCHANGE FOR SALSA LESSONS. I bore it all to the masses in the hopes that someone would sympathize with my cause. Surprisingly enough, a huge interest was generated (hooray!) and I found myself preparing to host a band of eager salsa-dancing strangers on Sunday afternoon at my house. The least I could do was offer them a meal for making the pilgrimage, and what’s better for feeding the masses than a big pot of pasta?
Poised to tackle a fear and embrace a new hobby, I also looked to my pantry for one challenge more. Ahh… the fava beans! Those buggers have been staring at me for weeks, so I plopped them into a big ol’ pot and let them soak overnight, giving me time to conjure up a plan for how to cook them. The next morning, their bath was changed and they started their long boil with a head of garlic and a roughly chopped white onion. Fava beans, or broad beans, are relative behemoth when compared side by side to their legume friends, and bursting with fiber, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin A, vitamin K, and iron. While cooking the dried favas, the beans broke down into a mushy mashy that was creamy and resembled hummus. Separating the thicker mash from the broth and reserving it (the “broth”will later separate into a thinner mash and liquid. I ended up using the thinner mash as a base for soup later in the week… delicious!), I had about 3-4 cups of thick, creamy mash to work with. That’s when I thought to make a sauce with eggplant, onion, and spinach that would be full of flavor and energy to dance for hours. It turned out wonderfully.
Creamy Fava Bean and Eggplant Pasta for a Crowd
1 500g Bag of Dried Fava Beans
600g of Pasta (any kind)
1 White Onion
1 Red Onion
6 Cloves Garlic, Minced
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Medium Eggplants, cubed
4 Cups Spinach, Roughly Chopped
1 Cup Reserved Fava Broth
1-2 Teaspoons Oregano
½-1 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
Pepper to Taste
Salt to Taste
Sautee onions on medium heat in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add garlic and stir until aromatic. Add eggplants and cover, stirring often, and adding reserved fava broth gradually and as needed. If the mixture looks dry, there is no need to add more oil, the fava broth will do just fine. Once the eggplants are cooked and soft (about 10-15 minutes), add the fava bean mash, chopped spinach and any remaining broth and cover. Add spices, turn down heat to lowest possible setting and let the flavors marinate and mingle for a few more minutes, tasting frequently and adding spice or salt where you deem necessary. I like my sauces salty, so I hesitate to put a specific amount on the recipe. Follow your palette.
If you aren’t serving right away, turn the heat off until ready to serve with pasta. Once ready to serve, cook your pasta to al dente. Any type of pasta that is chunky and textured to catch as much sauce as possible will work fine here (I used big elbow pasta). Pour sauce over pasta and gently mix, then transfer to large serving bowl, or in my case, right to the table in the pot.
Serve and enjoy!
Not knowing what to expect, our “fear and salsa”get together was a huge success. Israel brought speakers, Ivan took care of the music and tequila, Arturo showed us the steps and what we can aspire to. Together we all danced salsa and bachata, drank, laughed, and sweated profusely until nightfall, when I regrettably had to send everyone home with bellies full.
Can I dance yet? Not exactly. But I am well on my way!! Cheers!