Les Fèves et Navets de Printemps

This dish makes me think of a Pointillist painting, with its dots of vivid color from the begonia blossoms and the fava beans, interspersed with the white turnips and dark green oregano leaves. It’s an inspiration from Pascal Barbot, chef at Astrance in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. As the French would say, it’s a “clin d’oeil,” or wink, at spring!

NOTE: that when blanching, the ideal ratio of salt to water is 1 rounded tablespoon of coarse sea salt per 2 quarts/liters of water. To shuck the individual fava beans, blanch them in boiling water for about 1 minute, drain them, make a slit in the outer husk and pop out the little green bean inside. Note, too, that the cooking time for turnips will vary quite wildly, as it depends on the many things including the variety, how fresh they are, how large they are. They are cooked when a sharp knife blade passes through them with just the slightest bit of resistance, which means they are not mushy.

1-½ pounds (750g) baby turnips, peeled, cut in quarters

1 pound (500g) fava beans, husked, individual beans shucked (to give a shy cup of beans)

1-½ tablespoons unsalted butter

Fresh rosy pink Begonia flowers, from begonias that have not been sprayed 1 tablespoon fresh oregano or marjoram leaves

White Pepper

Fleur de sel

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the turnips, and when the water returns to a boil, cook the turnips until they are tender through, about 18 minutes. Transfer the turnips to the bowl of ice water, and when they are completely cool, transfer them to a cooling rack covered by a cotton towel.
  2. Bring a smaller pot of salted water to a boil over high heat, and add the fava beans. Cook them just until they are tender through, about 5 minutes, then transfer them to the bowl of ice water. When they are chilled, fish them out and transfer them to the cooling rack covered with a towel.
  3. Melt the butter in a good-sized skillet over medium heat. When the butter is hot, add the turnips and sauté them for 1 minute, then add the fava beans and sauté the two vegetables together until they are hot through, about 4 minutes, seasoning them with white pepper and salt as you sauté them. The vegetables should not dry out or turn golden at all, but be evenly hot through and glistening.
  4. Transfer an equal amount of the vegetables to each of four warmed plates. Arrange the vegetables so that they look pretty on the plate, that is so that the fava beans are strewn over the turnips, and sprinkle each plate with the marjoram leaves and the begonia petals. Add a tiny sprinkling of fleur de sel, and serve.

4 servings

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