It’s the Tuscans who are known as mangia fagioli, or bean eaters, but the Istrians eat their share as well. Perhaps both regions inherited a taste for legumes from the Etruscans, who civilized Tuscany and whose archaeological remains prove that they traveled in Istria. I like this salad for its harmony of textures, colors, and, of course, flavors.
Yield: Serves 4
1 pound fresh fava bean, shelled
1 pound fresh cranberry beans, shelled
½ small onion
2 bay leaves
1 small carrot, sliced
1 rib celery, cubed
1 pound large (about 14-20) shrimp, shelled except for the fantails, and deveined
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
In two separate pans of boiling water, cook the beans until tender, about 4 and 8 minutes for the favas and cranberry beans, respectively. Drain and refresh the beans under cold running water, and remove the outer skins from the favas.
In a medium saucepan, boil the onion, bay leaves, carrot, and celery in 6 cups of water for 20 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook just until opaque throughout, about 1 minute. Remove and drain the shrimp and allow them to cool.
In a serving bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Add the beans and shrimp, and toss to coat the solids thoroughly. Serve warm as an appetizer.
Recommended wine—I’d serve a Ribolla Gialla with this dish. The grape has been cultivated in Friuli and Istria since around the turn of the thirteenth century and has undergone a resurgence of popularity during the last ten years or so. It’s a dry white with balanced acidity, soft yellow color, elegant nose, and a pleasant complexity that complements antipasti and light main dishes.