Tuesday, September 06, 2011

All about Fava Beans

fava beans
When I lived in Italy there were all kinds of lovely things to eat that I never saw back home. Fortunately three of my favorites – fava beans, Tuscan kale and baby artichokes are now as common here as they were over there. Fava beans also known as broad beans take a bit of work to prepare, but are totally worth it. They are super tasty and healthy too, a good source of protein, fiber, iron and folate. Young fava beans are tender, have an unmistakeable buttery texture, an appealing herbal/bitter edge and cook up in no time. Older fava beans can be very starchy and are kind of earthy, but make a great addition to braises, soups and stews.

You can cook fava beans in the pod if they are very young and fresh. You can broil them, grill them, saute them in a pan with oil and salt or braise them in broth. But the more typical way of cooking them is to remove the beans from the pods, boil them for 3-5 minutes then pop the bean out of its thick skin (opening the skin then pinching the bean works best for me). I put the beans in a bowl of cold water to cool them down, it also makes them easier to handle. It takes about a pound of fava pods to yield a cup of beans. Just remember, smaller beans will be sweeter, larger beans will be starchier. Fava beans are so delicious you really only need a smattering to add color, texture and flavor to your recipes.

If you have lots of fava beans, consider making a mash or puree. You can serve it as a side dish, as a sauce for pasta or on crostini. I included a recipe for Fava bean and ricotta crostini with fresh mint in the book I wrote for Williams-Sonoma. While associated with Spring, you may find them well into late Summer. According to Ocean Mist, the ones grown in Castroville, California are in season from May through November, but you may be hard pressed to find them beyond September. Because they are somewhat delicate in flavor, pair them with mild or seasonal ingredients like fennel, lemon, seafood, morels, lamb, or fresh cheeses like mozzarella, feta and ricotta.

Other ideas for fava beans:

* Make a salad with fava beans, feta and vinaigrette

* Toss them in creamy risotto with shrimp

* Add them to bean salads

* Saute with garlic and onions in olive oil

* Serve on top of fried mozzarella, dress with lemon and extra virgin olive oil

* Use as a garnish to chicken and vegetable soup

* Serve with gnocchi or ravioli and butter

* Add to cold rice, bulgur, quinoa or barley salads

* Puree along with chickpeas to make hummus

Some enticing fava bean recipes

Garlicky broiled fava beans from Local Lemons

Spring fava bean fennel salad from Simply Recipes

Stewed artichokes with fresh fava beans from Hunter Angler Gatherer Cook

Turkish fava beans with garlic yogurt sauce from Opera Girl Cooks

Braised fava beans with prosciutto from What did you eat?

My thanks to Ocean Mist for sending me some fava beans earlier in the season