Fava beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants. They have a great buttery, nutty taste, and go by many names: Windsor beans, broad beans, English beans, horse beans, and pigeon beans, to name a few. They look a bit like an overgrown pea, and part of the preparation will call in your skills of tipping, tailing, and stringing the pods, like you’ve been doing for the sugar snap peas earlier this season.
Fava beans can be roasted, or grilled whole, or the peeled beans can be sauteed and added to soups, pastas, salads, or made into a puree.To roast: toss the pods in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast at 450 degrees for about twenty-five minutes or until tender. Let the pods cool a bit, then open them up and remove the beans, no need to skin the individual bean; the roasting process turns the skin of the bean from waxy to edible.
The same goes for grilling. Coat the pods in olive oil and place them directly on the grill, as you would asparagus. Let each side blacken. When the beans start to burst out from the pods, they’re ready. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove beans from the pod and toss with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
A puree can be made by mixing the above ingredients with blanched, peeled fava beans. Just toss them all together in a food processor.
A fava bean puree is a great accompaniment to rice, pasta, mushrooms, or seafood dishes. It can also be combined with other spring ingredients for a yummy bruschetta.
Preparing fava beans traditionally is a three step process. First, snap off the tip of the bean pod, string it by pulling the tip end straight down along the edge of the pod, and remove the beans inside the pod.
Next, boil the beans in a pot of water for thirty seconds to a minute then immediately place them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Last, drain the beans and tear open the waxy peel of each individual bean at the tip and pop the bright green bean out carefully, so it doesn’t split in half. You can also pinch one end of the bean and squeeze to eject it out of the peel.
Once this step is complete, the beans are ready to become the special feature of your chosen recipe.
The pods, or peeled beans should keep for about three to four days in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the beans for later.
To freeze: shell the beans by removing the pod, then freeze the individual beans with the pale peel intact. Remove the peel of the frozen beans with your fingers before cooking.