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.
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
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).