Vicken and I are looking for a place to move this fall for what will probably be our last year in Davis (fingers crossed!). As this reality of only having one more year here sets in, I’m making an effort to really take advantage of and enjoy all the perks there are here. Among the perks, of course, are the many lovely people I’ve been lucky enough to get to know over the last 5 years.

Part of the luxury of living in a small college town is that there is a constant influx of new and interesting people. The downfall that unfortunately accompanies that is that as I’ve met more and more new people I’ve lost track of some old friends that live only a few miles away. With our departure in sight now, I’ve been trying to catch up with these people and it has been so rewarding.

We recently had dinner with some old friends that I originally met through Vicken and who used to organize a weekly Four Square game every summer–clearly all-around awesome people, right? Anyway, we had a great time laughing, catching up, and concocting tequila-based drinks (not necessarily in that order) and we ate this Mexican fava bean soup that Vicken made. We used another of Rick Bayless’s recipes for this and were really pleased. The earthy plainness of the fava beans are first enhanced by the addition of roasted garlic, onions, and tomatoes, and then punched up a bit by the cilantro and mint that you add at the end.

The soup itself is Mediterranean in origin, but what finally adds the Mexican flavor is the vinegary chile condiment and cheese that you add to individual bowls. The chiles add a complex, rustic flavor to the recipe and the cheese balances out the vinegar and other strong flavors in the soup.


It’s hard to know whether the soup itself was actually as good as I thought it was or if I just had such a fun time that I let those emotions bias my judgement. Just to be sure, I made a second batch a few days later and the verdict stands. I think I’ll even suggest my mom make it. Translation: I feel confident enough about the likability of this soup that I think my dad, to whom everything I make and eat sounds “weird”, would like it. There’s not much more to say than that.

Slow-simmered fava bean soup
from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen

Makes about 10 cups. Serves 4-5 as a main course, or 8-10 small servings.

We have made this with the dried, hulled favas it calls for and with dried favas that we soaked for a few hours and then hulled. Both work fine, and the latter cooks more quickly due to the pre-soaking. You can probably add the chopped roasted vegetables as soon as 45 minutes into the cooking. The down-side to soaking and hulling the favas yourself is that it takes a long time. Plan to spend at least an hour on this step unless you have some nifty bean hulling technique up your sleeve.

1 pound (about 2 2/3 cups) hulled dry (yellow) fava beans, cleaned
8 cups good chicken broth or water
6 garlic cloves, skins on
1 large white onion, thickly sliced
1 1/2 pounds (3 medium-large round or 9-12 plum) ripe tomatoes
6 medium (about 2 ounces total) dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded
2 Tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for garnish
2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
Salt, about 2 1/2 teaspoons
1/2 cups loosely packed chopped cilantro
1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint, preferably spearmint
About 1/2 cup finely crumbled Mexican queso anejo, dry feta or parmesan (*I used queso anejo, and it worked really well)

1. The soup base.
Rinse the fava beans, place in a large (6-quart) pot, cover with 8 cups of broth or water, and simmer over medium-low heat, partially covered, until very tender (they will begin falling apart), about 1 hour.
While the beans are simmering, roast the garlic on an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until blackened in spots and soft, about 15 minutes. Cool, then slip off the papery skins and finely chop. On a piece of foil in the same skillet, roast the onion slices in a single later, turning once, until richly browned and soft, 6 or 7 minutes per side. (Note: I stirred the onions every minute or so rather than “flipping” them.) Meanwhile, roast the tomatoes 4 inches below a very hot broiler until blackened on one side, about 6 minutes, then flip and roast the other side. Cool, then peel and chop, saving all the juices.
Add the garlic, onion and tomatoes to the tender fava beans and simmer about 30 minutes more, until the beans are the consistency of a coarse, rough-looking puree.

2. The chiles.
While the soup is simmering (or before you start), cut the chiles into 1/8-inch slivers using kitchen shears. Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the chiles and stir for a minute. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar, 3 tablespoons of water, oregano, and a scant 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Let stand at least 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally.

3. Finishing the soup.
Just before serving, add a little water (or broth), if necessary, to bring the soup to the consistency of medium-thick bean soup. Stir in the cilantro and mint, taste and season with salt, usually about 2 teaspoons. Ladle the soup into warm bowls, spoon about a tablespoon of chiles into the center, drizzle with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with the finely crumbled cheese.

Advance preparation: The recipe can be made several days ahead of time through step 2; refrigerate the soup and chile mixture separately.

Shortcuts: A simple version can be prepared without the chile “condiment”; serve bottled hot sauce on the side.