Notes: This salad was inspired by Loretta Keller of Bizou Restaurant & Bar in San Francisco. If fresh favas aren't available, use 1 cup shelled cooked favas (8 oz.; sold refrigerated in some supermarkets) or frozen baby lima beans. Fresh pecorino cheese, which has a creamy texture similar to that of jack, is available in specialty food stores; don't confuse it with dry pecorino romano. You can make the bean paste (step 3) up to 1 day ahead; cover and chill. Reheat to use.
2 pounds asparagus
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 quart bite-size pieces rinsed and crisped red leaf lettuce (3 1/2 oz.)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (optional), rinsed, stemmed, and halved
Salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 pound young fava beans in pods, shelled (see notes)
1 cup shredded fresh pecorino (pecorino fresca; see notes) or jack cheese (4 oz.)
How to Make It
In a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat, bring 2 quarts water to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse asparagus; snap off and discard tough stem ends. Add asparagus to boiling water and cook until barely tender when pierced, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and arrange on a platter or plates.
In a large bowl, mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and the vinegar. Add lettuce and tomatoes; mix gently to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Arrange salad alongside asparagus.
In the pan, over medium heat, stir garlic in remaining 6 tablespoons oil until limp, about 30 seconds. Add shelled beans and 2/3 cup water; cover and simmer over low heat until beans are very soft when pressed, 7 to 12 minutes. Mash with a potato masher. Remove from heat and push mixture through a wire strainer; discard skins.
Return bean paste to pan over low heat and stir until hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add cheese, and stir until melted. Sauce should be thin enough to spoon over asparagus. If necessary, add a little hot water (2 to 4 tablespoons) to thin; do not return sauce to heat or cheese will become grainy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon warm sauce over warm or room-temperature asparagus.