(or, “Demystifying Fava Beans,” as Cook’s Illustrated would say)
Favas, a sure sign of Spring.
Favas, a process.
Favas, a great, over-the-top, green taste.
Favas, how much is enough?
It is true. One needs some time and patience to get to the great taste part of a Fava Bean. And it’s almost all in prep, because by the time you’ve liberated the beans, the cooking of them is simple and easy. Then it’s all about how to serve, and with what to pair them.
My recipe list includes soups, salads, stews and pasta dishes of one kind or another, most often as a side dish for a main course. They almost always include green garlic — it’s that season, too. In any dish, the fava beans should be the star, it doesn’t work in a supporting role.
Favas Soup — a simple green soup with favas and spring garlic and salt and pepper and water and whatever fresh herb is easily at hand
Fava Bean Orzo, a risotto made with orzo (orzotto?)
Umbrian Fava Bean Stew (Scafata) chopped onion, fennel, chard and tomatoes
Fava Bean Ragout (from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters) w/olive oil, rosemary and garlic
Fava alla Romana — (from Classic Italian Coookbook by Marcella Hazan) This is quite wonderful. Not strictly a vegeteble dish, very meaty. Peppery too. w/pancetta
Our Favorite Fava Beans (from Mariquita Farm) sautéed with green garlic and oil
Julia’s Fava and Orzo Salad (from Mariquita Farm) with bits of carrot and radish
Rice Salad with Shrimp and Fava Beans
Fava Bean and Couscous Salad w/scallions and a honey vinaigrette
Fava Beans w/Tomato and sweet onion over tagliatelle
Garganelli Pasta with Fava Beans — (Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook) Garganelli is a type of egg pasta characterized by a shape that resembles a small, ridged, rolled tube, similar to a quill.
Fava and Fresh Ricotta Bruschetta
Time was when I was mystified by favas, what on earth do I do with these? No longer.
As for “how much must you buy?” My experience is 2 pounds unshelled fava beans = about 2 cups shelled, but not peeled, or enough for two people with maybe some left over.
So, you have your favas in a big bag, now what?
Remove the beans from the pods. The pods are kind of soft and, unlike English peas, each bean has its own nest, they’re not all crammed together. Snap the top and pull the string down one side or the other — or both if you’re lucky. Open the pod and pick out the beans. Don’t be discouraged if you have to tear the pod.
Here’s my set-up for peeling the beans — and you must peel the beans unless you go to the farm for the very first picking, go straight home and process them immediately. If you don’t believe me, eat a bean with the “husk” on, if you like that, don’t peel â€˜em.
Blanch the beans for one minute and drain. There’s a little bright green thing on one end of the bean. Clip the other end with your thumbnail and gently squeeze out the emerald colored bean, it may split in two, that’s okay. Do this over a bowl, or it may fly across the room — slippery little devils. Repeat.
From left to right, above:
Soft cheese and liver pate on crackers for snacking.
The shelled beans.
The peeled beans.
A glass of Scotch to go with the crackers.
The spent husks.
And unseen, in front of me, a small TV with the evening news.
Here’s what I did with them:
A salad of fava beans, tomato (peeled, seeded and chopped), and sliced spring onion (blanched for a minute or less just after you blanched your favas), salt and pepper. Toss with olive oil and serve over fresh tagliatelle (or fettuccine). Garnish with chopped chives. Yum.
The dish on the right is Chicken Canzanese a New York Times Magazine Recipe Redux from 1969 by Amanda Hesser. But that’s another story (I didn’t think it was so special).
Before posting this, I took a break to go to the Ferry Building for the Farmers Market Easy Market Meals demonstration.
Each first and third Tuesday during the summer CUESA sponsors free cooking demonstrations, beginning every 30 minutes between noon and 1:30. They use fresh ingredients from the Tuesday market and each attendee leaves with a sample, a recipe and suggested shopping list.
Whaddayaknow, today’s demonstration by chef Tia Harrison of Avedano’s Market, featured sweet and savory crostini:
Stone fruit crostini
Pickled onion and basil crostini
Fava bean crostini.
Apropos to this piece, I focused on the fava bean crostini.
For the crostini, brush a slice of sourdough baguette with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill on both sides or roast in a 400 degree oven until golden brown. Spread a generous amount of goat cheese on each slice.
For the topping, shell, blanch and peel some fava beans. Toss them in a bowl with olive oil, mint chiffonade, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Spoon the beans onto the crostini. Serve.
Make more than you need, you can use that fava bean preparation as a vegetable side dish, serve with pasta or in a salad.
I love this city!
OK, here are the other crostini recipes.
Pickled onion and basil crostini
Thinly slice two red onions. Bring 1 cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 bay leaf and 1 tablespoon peppercorns to a boil. Add onions and boil for 2 minutes. Pour onions and vinegar into a glass jar and refrigerate until ready for use.
Top crostini (described above), with the pickled onions and basil chiffonade.
Candied walnut and stone fruit crostini
Make a simple syrup over medium heat by melting 1/2 cup brown sugar in 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons butter. When it’s reduced a bit, brown and bubbly, add 2 cups walnuts, stirring to coat them with the syrup. Pour onto a sheet pan and allow to cool.
Put a slice of stone fruit (peach) on a crostini (described above), drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and basil chiffonade. Top with chopped candied walnuts.
Couple O’ Things:
The reason peeling the shelled beans is preferable is that the white skin on the bean is quite bitter. But sometimes that’s NOT a bad thing. On a hot summer afternoon, try toasting a few walnuts, shelling a few raw favas — leaving them UNpeeled — and uncorking a bottle of light white wine (like a Vihno Verde, or a minerally Sauvignon Blanc, or a Basque Chacoli). Eat a walnut, then a bean, then take a sip of wine. The oily walnut takes the fuzz off the bitter bean and you wind up with an addictive appetizer that works perfectly with cold sharp wine.
Regarding Crostini; I have been accused of using too much garlic, but I’ve never regretted it. My crostini recipe is even easier than yours, and I turn it up to eleven. While using your toaster to toast the bread until it’s brown, peel a single garlic clove. When the toast is done, take it out of the toaster, let it cool for a minute, and then rub the now hard and abrasive surface of the toast with the raw garlic clove. Once rubbed, then drizzle with oil.
Otherwise, this is a great resource on Favas, which are too often overlooked in the US.