Wednesday, July 16

A Belated Homage to the Fava Bean

Always a bit behind the vogue, I noticed the vernal influx of food-o-sphere posts on fava beans, and I wanted to contribute my own herald to the noble dicot.

I first saw fresh fava beans in Toronto's sprawling, vibrant, supremely inspirational Kensington Market. Rifling through the endless stalls of cheese, breads, clothing, smoking paraphernalia, spices, dry goods, and produce, I spied the pile of gnarled, spotted pods, which looked like they could have fallen from Jack's beanstalk. "Ah, fava beans!" I exclaimed, largely for my cohort's benefit, "What luck!"

I, of course, had never seen, cooked, or possibly even consumed fresh fava beans at that point in my young, occasionally brash life. Still, I knew I wanted them, and after selecting large, green pods that felt heavy for their size (well it works for lemons and melons...), I walked away with about half a pound of fava beans and the stirrings of possibility.

Now, how to eat them? First, the favas must be shelled, like peas, or rather, like jumbo peas on steroids. I find it easiest to peel back the stem and attached string running down the seam of the bean pod, similar to removing the strings from snap peas or sugar peas.

Next, run your finger along the seam to separate the shell and reveal a row of plump favas nestled comfortably inside. The beans can be removed, and the amply-padded pods discarded (or, if you're really cool, composted).

The first time I experimented with favas, in my wayward youth, I ignorantly stopped at this step, and honestly I don't think the meal was any the worse for my blissful neglect. They were boiled, then marinated with avocados, cherry tomatoes, and chickpeas in a thick lemon vinaigrette, and served in dripping spoonfuls atop thirsty squares of toasted baguette. Fava experiment number one was surely a success.

However, with a bit less bravado and a bit more research I would have discovered the universally-recognized need to double peel your favas. That's right: there's still a long road ahead until we reach the promised Fava Land. After boiling (3-9 minutes in salted water, depending on whether you're going to cook them further), use a paring knife to split the moderately translucent sac surrounding the brilliant green bean. I took the road less travelled and settled for my very own adequately-dexterous fingers, delighting in each painstaking emerald exposé.

Once this was accomplished I marinated the favas, along with chopped cucumbers and red onions, in a lemon-cumin vinaigrette. A few hours later I added a batch of marinated mushrooms and some very salty feta, and again served my salad with an appropriate bread product (Mediterranean flatbreads this time, still good for sopping and scooping).

Serve favas with an appropriately springy wine to suit their fleeting season (April-May). I like the three Italian V's -- Vernaccia, Vermentino, or Verdicchio -- all of which have lovely "green" qualities: melon, lime, hints of grass. A sauvignon blanc would work well, too, but I prefer a more nuanced Old World origin, like the Loire Valley, to the brash New World producers (New Zealand, Australia).


For more fava-related inspiration, check out these now-archived links:

Rosa Jackson, in one of her infinitely inspirational experiments, came up with this Fava Bean Gnocci.

Susan at Food Blogga posted this informative post with preparation instructions and a recipe for Fava Bean and Dill Crostini.

The good folks of Swirling Notions presented this post, featuring another Fava Bean Crostini.

Ulterior Epicure offers this eloquent review of his meal at Bluestem, which included a Fava Bean Salad.


Gina Marie said...

You mean you don't eat your fava beans with the liver of your enemies and a nice Cianti? XD

Crystal said...

remember how i really enjoy the experience of you telling me about my chakras? and my muscles? i also enjoy the experience of you telling me about how to peel and work with fava beans, except i can't hear your voice.
i don't think we have favas here, but, then again, i haven't been looking.

swirlingnotions said...

Congrats on your initiation into favas!

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