Foodie Tuesday: Fava Beans

I'm hopping on the springtime bandwagon and featuring one of my favorite legumes, the fava bean, particularly the fresh fava bean, because so few people (including myself, until recently) know what to do with it.

Of course, I never met a bean I didn't like, but the fava bean takes the pulse family to the ultimate in sublime.  Apparently it's also known as the broad bean, which is how I originally knew it, sold fried, cracked open, and seasoned in plastic packets at the Chinese supermarket.  It seems most of the world where the bean originated (that is, north Africa, the Middle East, and southwestern Asia) eats it dried, fried, or otherwise brown.  

Tasty, but not nearly as good as it is fresh. Eaten fresh at the peak of its season, it has a firm but yielding texture, a delicate and nutty flavor, and a really pleasing bright green color. Of course the only thing I'd heard about the fava bean until recently, like so many of my American peers, was that line in Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal Lector talks about having a guy's liver "with fava beans and a nice chianti."  It did not do the poor bean justice.  

I fell decidedly in love with the fava bean about one year ago, under Thomas Keller's masterful influence, in a French Laundry dish with veal, sunchokes, and chanterelle mushrooms.  The veal was supposed to take the main stage but the fava beans stole the show for me.  There were about three of them on the whole plate, so perfectly tender and flavorful, that I put them in my mouth and have not been able to get them off my mind since.

You can imagine how thrilled I was the other day when I saw a small bucket of them at my neighborhood grocer.  I had no idea how to prepare them or how much to buy or even how to pick the best ones, so I just picked more slender ones that looked rather green (in retrospect, I should have picked ones that were bigger and plumper).  They turned out to be somewhat labor intensive (involving shucking, blanching and peeling before cooking again) but well worth the effort.  Check out the Bon Appetit article on how to prepare them.

It took me a while to decide how to cook the beans, what precious few I had.  I finally decided to saute them in olive oil with asparagus, diced white onions, prociutto, and thinly sliced crimini mushrooms, served over linguini.  It was perfect.

8 responses
so jealous of California produce! It will be another 3 to 4 weeks before we get any significant amount of greens. Only spinach, swiss chard, and kale are abundant at this time of the year. Great looking dish by the way!
looks like a great "broad" bean recipe. Thx
Oh Steph this looks so yummy! I love fava beans too (and totally loved them as the brown/fried beans Chinese snack style, too, haha)!! I'm growing some in my backyard right now and the pods are starting to form, I'm so excited! I made a fava bean risotto with some beans I got from the farmer's market at the end of last summer. It was pretty yummy, but I think your dish features the fava way more prominently. YUM!
Hi - the peel fom the broad beans can be put in the mixer with a drop of walnut oil. It makes a tasty frugal spread. Even more frugal if you use a hand-mixer !
Anyone else got good uses for peel ?
Cheers, harropmike
Quoting from Thomas Harris' book:

"A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone. Go back to school, little Starling."

Wish the film had stuck to the book. A culture vulture like Lecter wouldn't be seen dead guzzling a common country wine plonk like Chianti. Amarone della Valpolicella is so much more like him.

I'd never even heard or an Amarone before, so that was educational.
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