Fava beans (also known as broad beans) are the king of all beans; their flavor is smoother, sweeter and richer than most other beans. And while they're growing in popularity, they still haven't become a staple spring-time ingredient in many kitchens.
Our suspicion is that it's because fava beans are a chore to peel -- and to some, it's a bit of a mystery figuring out how to get the actual bean out of the pod.
Fava beans, when in their pods, look like an overgrown sweet pea. You'll want green pods -- and don't go for the ones that are bulging, which means they're older and might have a slightly bitter taste. Also, fava beans have to be peeled twice, which means you'll have to buy a lot more beans than you might think. One pound of un-peeled beans will give you roughly 1/3 cup of favas.
- First, remove the beans from the pods (much like you would when shelling peas) by running a finger up the seam of the pod, splitting it open and removing the beans. There are about 4 to 5 beans per pod.
- At this point you'll notice that the bean has a thick white-ish skin around it which also needs to be peeled off. (Some people say that you can cook and eat the bean with the skin on, as long as it's really cooked through. Others feel that this takes away from the delicate flavor of the bean. Overall, it's more common to peel the second skin.)
- To remove the second skin, there are two different methods. The first is to make a small slit with a knife along the edge of the bean to pop the bean out of its skin.
- The alternate, and more popular, method is to put the fava beans in boiling salted water to blanch for 30 seconds. Remove the beans from the boiling water and submerge them in ice cold water to stop the cooking process. This step softens the second skin, making it easier to remove.
- With your fingers, squeeze the bean out from its skin.
- Now, you can use the beans as directed in any recipe of your choice.
*This delicious dish is a great way to dive into the fava for all our beginners out there!
- 1 1⁄2 lbs. shelled fresh favas (4–5 cups) from 5–6 lbs.
- unshelled favas
- 4–6 tbsp. fruity extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1⁄2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 15–20 thin slices crisp, toasted baguette (optional)
- 8–10 leaves fresh mint, sliced into thin ribbons
- 15–20 shavings pecorino (optional)
1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add favas and cook until bright green, 1–2 minutes. Drain favas, rinse under cold running water, and drain again. Peel favas and discard skins.
2. Heat 4 tbsp. of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add favas and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often and adding a little water to keep beans moist, if necessary, until favas are tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Purée favas in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and season to taste with lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
4. To serve fava purée on toasted baguette slices, brush toasts with remaining olive oil, then spread with some purée. Garnish fava purée with mint and/or pecorino, if you like.
Grilled Whole Favas
SERVES 6 – 8
Choose tender, bright green pods with beans that feel fresh and pliable through the pod skin.
- 2 lbs. rinsed and dried whole fava pods
- 2–3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1. Prepare a charcoal grill. Meanwhile, toss fava pods with oil in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and toss again.
2. Grill favas in a single layer over hot coals. They should sizzle and may smoke a bit, but don't let them flare up. Grill until bold black blisters appear on the grill side, 3–4 minutes, then turn them over and grill 2–4 minutes more.
3. Pile favas onto a platter and let cool for a few minutes.
4. To eat, pry open pods, pop out beans, pinch off tip of wrinkled skin with your fingernail, and squeeze out tender, fragrant fava. Lick your oily, salty fingertips; it's part of the dish. Serve with radishes, sheep's milk cheese, and slices of salami or prosciutto, if you like.