Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fava Beans

Don't you just love Spring when all those seasonal vegetables are back in the markets? Sure, you can get strawberries in December and asparagus in January, but who knows how far they had to travel. Where I live you can't find fava beans except in the spring so when they appear you know they've got to be fresh. They're sometimes called broad beans, and they have a creamy texture and distinct taste. The pods are somewhat thick and leathery with a fuzzy white interior. Shelling and cleaning the beans is somewhat of a process, but I have a trick to help make it easier. More on that later.

Fava beans are sometimes eaten raw, straight from the pod in Italy -- with a chunk of pecorino and a glass of wine. That's how I first learned to eat them, sitting around a table with my late husband's cousins in Abruzzo. Here's another riff on that duet - fava bean puree and pecorino bruschetta. I add mint to the puree giving it a bright springtime flavor that contrasts well with the sharp pecorino cheese.

I love the vibrant color that fava beans add to a dish. This salad's got bibb lettuce, shaved fennel, red pepper, red onion, asparagus slices, fava beans and orange segments - topped with some fennel fronds and a sprig of mint - an herb that complements fava beans. Just a simple oil and vinegar dressing, but try using some of that colorful chive blossom vinegar I posted about here.

To prepare the favas, split the pod open with your fingernail (or knife) and remove the individual beans. 

You're still not home free because there's an outer pod that you need to remove before getting to the inner bean. Most people boil the beans for a few minutes to soften the outer pod, then drop them into cold water. But if you lay the beans on a cookie sheet and put them in the freezer for 10 minutes, the outer shell will slip off easily. 

The beans should pop free of their outer shells with minimal effort. If you've left them in the freezer too long and they've become too frozen, just wait a few minutes and they'll thaw a bit.

The puree couldn't be easier to make. You'll be done in the time it takes to grill your bread.

Fava Bean Puree

printable recipe here

1/2 cup cleaned and cooked fava beans

2 T. extra virgin olive oil, as needed

about 10 mint leaves or more if desired

salt, pepper

Cook the fava beans in boiling water for about 10 minutes or until softened. Drain and cool them, then place them in a blender or food processor with the olive oil, the mint leaves, a good quality sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. If the mixture is too thick, add a few spoonfuls of water or more olive oil.

Serve with shaved pecorino cheese (or parmesan).

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  1. Gorgeous! Fava beans are a real delicacy.



  2. I love favas, but am too lazy to split them! Will you do it for me?

  3. To think, since my (100% Roman born and raised) introduced me to the Fava Fest (with pecorino brought from Rome up to Milan by his mother) over twenty years ago, I never knew about the second peeling, and have been eating them with the outer part too.
    They are still wonderful.

  4. Love the favas, and these look great. Have grown them several times even. When they're tender I don't bother to peel off the outer layer, though.

  5. Freezing the beans makes the pod slip off? This is so good to know! The puree with pecorino sounds fantastic.

  6. I have not seen them here yet....i will have to check Whole Foods. Everything looks so fresh and amazing!

  7. It's amazing how beautiful the lowly bean can look! Love the blending of the flavors of the bean, mint and Pecorino. Thoroughly happy with any tip that makes life easier - so the "freezing" tip is grand. Of course, I must remember to take them out of the freezer...

  8. Now how did you figure that out about freezing them, I love that! That salad looks luscious.

  9. fave e pecorino, un mix perfetto e gustoso!Splendida quell'insalata Linda!Buona giornata cara, a presto!

  10. I'll have to see if anyone at our farmers' market sells them. I'm ashamed to say I've never had a fava bean!

  11. Another terrific post, and thanks for the cool tip about the fave - good thinking.

  12. Fava is my husband's favorite bean, Linda. They are a lot of work to cook fresh, but so worth it!

  13. Thanks for the peeling tip. I'm usually too lazy to peel fava beans. It's nice to know there's an easy way to do it!