Saturday, April 11, 2009

Fava beans - no liver, no Chianti

Fava beans are one of my favorite vegetables of spring. This initially came as a surprise to me, since they look a lot like lima beans, and I was a child who spent a lot of my childhood picking the lima beans out of the servings of frozen mixed vegetables my mom liked to serve us several times a week.

I picked up a handful of favas at the grocery store this week. I would have bought more (it takes about a pound of fava beans in their pods to produce a cup of edible beans) but a handful is all that was left. Never mind: That is enough to brighten up a pasta dish, especially with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Yes, that's the ticket: 4-6 ounces bowtie pasta, cooked to al dente and drained; a drizzle extra virgin olive oil; shelled, cooked fava beans; a few red pepper flakes; sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. A few threads of basil and some shaved Parmesan, maybe a little crisped ham or bacon bits, and ummm-ummm good.

To prepare fava beans that are past the baby stage (when they can be eaten whole), take the beans out of the pod and throw the pods in the compost. Put the beans, which have a thick outer coat, into a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of ice water. When the beans are in a rolling boil, remove from the stove and drain, and dash them into the ice water. When they have cooled, remove the skins by either pinching them, or using a little sharp knife, cut a slit in the outer coat and push them through. Add the outer coats to the compost pile. Saute the beans in a little oil briefly until just tender. Season if you wish.

Oh, and at the bottom of this post is another reason that favas have gotten a rather bad rap.

Photograph by David S. Deutsch
More Americans are discovering fava beans' buttery texture and lovely nutty taste.

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