February 22, 2016

You know spring has sprung when fava beans come back to markets and menus. Colorado chef Jennifer Jasinski, whose Denver restaurants include Rioja and Bistro Vendôme, says she's uniquely positioned to get the most out of fava season: In early spring, Colorado gets favas from neighboring states, while the local fava growing season stretches until June.

"It's fantastic. We get almost five whole months of fresh favas," Jasinski says. "I love their sweet, delicate flavor and creaminess. When the springtime comes, I just want to see their young, bright-green color."

Because the beans have such delicate flavor and texture, Jasinski says it's best to feature them simply, without a lot of other ingredients that might mask their subtleties. Dishes like pasta tosses or even just scrambled eggs let the beans come through in all their verdant glory.

Jasinski's crostini is another great example of a simple fava dish. Paired with tangy goat cheese and meaty mushrooms on crunchy toasted bread, the favas get the seasonal star treatment. "I just wanted to make a simple little appetizer, a nice party snack, where the favas wouldn't be overwhelmed," she says. She succeeds deliciously. Try Jasinski's original version this month at Rioja in Denver.

FAVA BEAN AND MUSHROOM CROSTINIHands-on: 60 min. Total: 60 min.

Nutty fava beans get the spotlight here in this festive spring appetizer. Lemon and goat cheese balance the deep umami notes from the mushrooms.

2 tablespoons olive oil1 cup shallots, quartered (about 4 ounces)2 fresh thyme sprigs2 cups chopped oyster mushrooms2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced1 cup shelled fava beans (about 1 pound unshelled)2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1/4 teaspoon kosher salt2 tablespoons fat-free milk1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind3 ounces goat cheese (about ? cup)16 (1/4-ounce) thin, diagonal slices sourdough baguette, toasted

1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and thyme; cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low; cook 4 minutes or until shallots are completely tender. Place shallots in a large bowl; leave thyme in pan. Increase heat to medium. Add mushrooms and garlic to pan; cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove thyme sprigs; discard. Add mushroom mixture to shallots in bowl.

2. Cook fava beans 1 minute in boiling water; drain and place immediately into ice water for 30 seconds. Drain well. Remove outer membranes from beans; discard membranes. Add beans, juice, 1/4 cup parsley leaves, pepper, and salt to mushroom mixture; toss well.

3. Combine milk, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley, basil, rind, and cheese in a bowl. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese mixture over top of each bread slice. Top each bread slice with 1 tablespoon mushroom mixture.

SERVES 8 (serving size: 2 crostini)CALORIES 132; FAT 6.2g (sat 2.2g, mono 3.3g, poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 6g; CARB 14g; FIBER 2g; SUGARS 3g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 5mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 187mg; CALC 41mg

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