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April 23, 2006

Dealing with Fresh Fava Beans

Fresh fava beans are a fair bit of work.

First, like most other beans or peas, you have to shell them. (I say "like most other beans or peas", but I confess that, even in my newfound phase of culinary exploration, I mostly buy my beans canned and my peas frozen, because even though I'm very excited about getting in touch with my food and eating less processed food, I'm even more excited about getting dinner on the table before midnight most nights. But I digress.) Shelling them is kind of fun. A fava bean pod looks sort of like a peapod on steroids - it's about 6 to 10 inches long. You slit open the pod with a thumbnail, and it's got the fava beans nestled in cottony fuzzy white stuff inside, and you pull them out. Repeat. It's a lot like shelling peas, which is kind of fun if you have a couple of friends to do it with. (I didn't have any fava bean shelling buddies. Maybe next time.)

But then fava beans, unlike other beans or peas, have a tough skin on the outside of the bean that you have to remove. To do this, you blanch the beans in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain them and run them under cold water. Then you can make a little slit in the skin with a thumbnail (clearly, when dealing with favas, you've got to be careful not to trim your nails too short), if the skin hasn't split already from the blanching, and pop the fava bean out.

This is fiddly, slippery work, and the tips of your fingers get all wrinkly, and your giant pile of fava bean pods ends up producing what seems like a rather small pile of bright green bean halves. By the time you're done, you will really be wondering if fresh favas could possibly be worth it. And then you taste one. Yes, they're worth it. They're sort of like one imagines really impeccably fresh peas ought to be. They're sweet, and slightly green tasting. (They're completely unlike canned favas, which seem to still have the skin on the outside, and have a very starchy texture.)

I made a variation on this Farro and Fava Bean salad from Epicurious, because I had some farro that I thought probably needed to be used up. I used lemon juice instead of vinegar, substituted some steamed asparagus for the peas, and used bottled roasted red peppers in place of tomatoes. And spinach instead of arugula. Because that's what I had on hand. It made a nice light lunch with a little shaved parmesan on top. Which is good, because I think I have enough for lunch for the next week.

I do think that the next time I cook fresh favas, I'll make something that shows them off to better advantage. They got a bit lost in the salad.

Posted by spaceling at April 23, 2006 12:41 PM

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