I love potato salad, but I rarely eat it. Why? Because to me, potato salad is a summertime food. It’s served cold, and many a childhood barbecue in the steaming heat has meant that I can’t disassociate potato salad from outdoor meals while baking in the sun. But eating mayonnaise during the summer, for me, ranks somewhere alongside eating popsicles outdoors in January. In a blizzard. With no gloves. Other mayo-free potato salads that I’ve tried seem to be drowning in oil, so I’ve steered clear of the whole spectrum of potato salads. Until now.
When I saw this recipe, the winning combination of fennel, potatoes, lemon and a measly 3 tablespoons of oil won me over. And favas! FAVAS! To be clear, I’m part Italian (Sicilian, in fact). This means I love fava beans as much as I love tomatoes, pasta, gelato and the Azzurri (don’t even talk to me about the World Cup right now). Sure, preparing favas isn’t the most fun thing in the world (unless you really like peeling and blanching beans in multiple rounds), but the flavor payoff is always worthwhile. Fava prep aside, this salad is a breeze to make and the mild anisette flavor of the fennel is perfectly offset by the fresh acid of the lemon and the bite of pepper. I ended up adding in capers to my version for an extra kick, but the salad is also delicious without them. Best part is, you can easily adapt this salad for more people; I actually had to increase the recipe as I found out partway through that we were having guests for dinner. When I finished cooking for the evening, I ate my potato salad outside in the slowly diminishing summer heat and relished every bite.
Potato Salad with Fava Beans and Fennel
Adapted from the Kitchn
1 pound cleaned new potatoes (I like red for the color)
1 pound fava bean pods– pick pods that aren’t overly lumpy as the beans might be bitter
1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
3 tablespoons chopped chives
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons capers, drained (optional)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt (I like Maldon)
Freshly ground black pepper
Start off by removing your favas from their pods. Boil a pot of water, and set up a bowl of very cold ice water and have a slotted spoon or dumpling skimmer handy. Blanch favas quickly in the pot, about 40-50 seconds, and then remove beans to the ice bath using the spoon. Let rest for a minute or two, them remove the thin, waxy coating surrounding each bean. If they don’t slip right off, that’s okay. The blanching process will have cause the bean to separate from the outer skin, so you should be able to gently tear it and pop your favas out that way. Set aside.
Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold, salted water by about an inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork. Over-testing won’t hurt them; no one likes raw potatoes, but you don’t want your potatoes to be mushy either. Drain and set aside until just cool enough to handle.
Halve or quarter the potatoes and place them in a large bowl. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest, pour over the potatoes, and toss. Add the favas, sliced fennel, fennel fronds, capers (if using) and chives to the bowl and toss. Season with pepper, and a bit of salt if you’re forgoing the capers.
Serve at room temperature or chilled. Extras will keep for 2-3 days, covered, in the refrigerator.