Dinner Alfresco: Grilled Lemon Cumin Chicken with Favas and Feta

Spring Chicken with Fava and Feta

The weather pattern this week almost has me believing we’re living in California wine country or something. Here we are moving straight on to summer, and yet we’ve had a series of clear, warm, dry days followed by cool, breezy evenings that make me just want to live outside. I’m savoring it, because I’m counting on the return of our normal St. Louis days of heat and booty-spanking humidity. Well, dreading them, really.

I’d love to live outside. I’ve been sitting out in the backyard, watching the grass grow (for real) and browsing through the pages of the various catalogs that pile up around here – Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Smith and Hawken – that now have whole publications devoted to decorating the yard. I find the stylish photos very inviting, in a movie-set kind of way. And while I can easily imagine lounging on an oversized espresso-colored cushion and serving dinner on a 7-foot long dining table nestled under a big old olive tree with a chandelier hanging from it, I have to laugh.

When I insist on eating dinner in the backyard, we line up for a few thick coats of Deep Woods repellent and shovel dinner in real fast before hightailing it back inside.

In the spirit of the season, however, I made this Mediterranean-inspired chicken the other night. We ate it outside, pretty much unscathed.

I always buy fresh fava beans in the spring, because I love them. Although they require a tiny bit of extra work (double-peeling), they’re nothing like dried ones, which tend to need a lifetime of soaking and have a dry, starchy texture when cooked. Fresh favas are tender, sweet and greener than Kentucky Bluegrass. They're also fun for kids to peel – the pods are thick and fleshy, and the beans inside rest on a fuzzy white lining like flannel pillowcases.

Grilled Lemon-Cumin Chicken with Favas and Feta

makes 4 servings
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds unshelled fava beans
1/2 cup crumbled feta or ricotta salata cheese

Pound the chicken between sheets of plastic wrap to an even 1/4-inch thickness and place in a large ziptop bag.

Whisk the lemon juice, oil, mint and cumin together. Reserve half, and pour the rest over the chicken. Seal the bag and refrigerate for an hour and up to six hours.

To peel the favas, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Split the pods with your finger and pop out the beans. Drop them into the water and cook one minute to tenderize the light green skins. Drain and cool them under running water. Using a fingernail, break open the skin and squeeze out the bright green beans.

Rub a grill rack with oil and heat the grill to medium-high heat. Remove chicken from the marinade and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken, covered, about 6 minutes per side.

Serve over couscous or brown rice with the favas, sprinkled with cheese and drizzled with remaining lemon-cumin mixture.

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Alanna said...

Gorgeous! I've yet to experience fava beans, dried or fresh. Where are you finding them?!!

Karen said...

Alanna, Global has them. Also at Dierberg's...maybe Soulard? They're not local, though. At least not yet.

Kristen said...

I love dining outside. We do it almost every evening in the spring/summer months. If only there was a lake or ocean in our view, life would be grand!
What a beautiful meal!

Susan said...

I waited all winter for fresh fava beans and to my disappointment, there were virtually none to be had at the farmers' market. Apparently, early cold snaps ruined many of them, and a lot of the farmers didn't replant them. So, I am dying looking at those plump, green beans. I wish I had some right now.

Karen said...

Kristen, if only is right. Well, we can still enjoy being outside even if the view is of the backyard swingset!

Susan, oh my! I wonder where my favas came from? I assumed they were from California...

Hillary said...

Looks great! Fava beans and feta cheese seem to make a unique but delicious combination atop the chicken.

If you want to try another Fava bean recipe, here's a great one for Portuguese Fava beans at Recipe4Living.com: http://www.recipe4living.com/Recipe/49186-PortugueseFavaBeans.aspx

Lisa said...

Looks just delicious! I'm so jealous of your fava beans. Sher of What Did You Eat grows them and is always cooking with them too. No one around here grows them, for some reason. One farmer had some last year, but they looked awful, all brown and stuff.