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Cherry Tomato and Fava Bean Salad

In this brightly colored first-course salad, fava beans are combined with pecorino romano, an Italian sheep's-milk cheese, and plump cherry tomatoes. Accompany with ready-made cheese crisps: thin toasted bread slices topped with cheese, available at specialty-food stores.

Ingredients:

  • 4 lb. fava beans
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes in mixed colors and
      shapes, stemmed and halved
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 12 fresh mint leaves, finely slivered
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2-oz. wedge pecorino romano cheese
  • 12 store-bought cheese crisps (optional)

Directions:

Remove the fava beans from their pods and discard the pods. (The beans can be shelled up to 8 hours in advance. Refrigerate until ready to use.)

Fill a large bowl three-fourths full of ice water and set aside. Bring a saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the fava beans and boil until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander, then transfer them immediately to the ice-water bath. When they are cool, drain them again in the colander. Using a thumb and forefinger, squeeze each bean from its tough skin into a small bowl, using a paring knife to make a tiny break in the skin at the edge of the bean first if necessary.

In a large bowl, toss together the fava beans, tomatoes, celery and mint. Drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice over the top, season with salt and pepper, and toss again to coat.

Divide the salad evenly among individual plates. Using a vegetable peeler, shave the pecorino cheese evenly over the top. Garnish each serving with 2 cheese crisps and serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese (Oxmoor House, 2004).