Fava beans and English peas are among the fresh vegetables that chef John Maher most looks forward to every year. "To me, spring is all about the beautiful vegetables of the season, and doing as little as possible to them," says Maher, who grew up in Powhatan County and has worked at restaurants in California, Germany and the Caribbean. Look for some vegetable-based dishes when Maher's pop-up restaurant opens. Debuting May 20 at Pasture (416 E. Grace St.) , it's called spoon. For more information, visit spoonrva.com .
Fava beans, or broad beans, are typically planted early in spring, according to the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Ana Edwards, manager of the Byrd House Market, says two vendors there likely will have fava beans by mid-June.
Yukon Gold Potato Gnocchi with Spring Vegetables
Contributed by chef John Maher of spoon.
6 large Yukon Gold potatoes
6 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon of salt
A pinch of white pepper
All-purpose flour as needed
1 cup of fresh fava beans, shucked, peeled, germ removed and blanched
2/3 cup of fresh English peas, shucked and blanched
4 spring carrots with their tops (wash and slice carrots on the bias, wash and reserve the tops)
1 shallot, minced
2 cups of fava leaves (or pea greens/tendrils)
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Sherry vinegar to taste
Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated or shaved, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the potatoes until soft and cooked throughout (about one hour). When the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the oven and cool until they can be handled. While still warm, cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Process the potato flesh in a food mill, if available. If not, pass the potato through a fine sieve, or use a food processor or mixer.
With a wooden spoon, mix the egg yolks, salt and white pepper into the still-warm potato purée. Finally, add flour in small increments until the dough is no longer sticky.
Take a small amount of dough and roll it into a tube about an inch or so in diameter. With a knife, cut the tube into 1-inch pieces. (Repeat the process until all the dough is used.) Drop the gnocchi into simmering water until they float and then transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Remove the gnocchi from the ice water, toss them with a little olive oil, and transfer to a bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized, nonstick sauté pan over high heat. When the oil just starts to smoke, add the gnocchi in batches. Cook for a minute until the gnocchi starts to color, then toss in the pan. Try to get some good caramelization on both sides. Repeat with each batch.
Lower the heat to medium and add the fava beans, peas, carrots and minced shallots. Sauté for 1 minute to heat the vegetables through.
Add 1 tablespoon of butter and toss. Then add 1 tablespoon of water or stock and combine to make a sauce that coats everything in the pan. Season with salt and pepper, and adjust the flavor with a few drops of sherry vinegar for acidity.
Transfer the finished dish to a bowl or plate and garnish with the fava leaves, carrot tops and grated or shaved Pecorino Romano.