It wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered the wonder of Favas. When Rob and I moved to McMinnville in 1994 we quickly became regulars at our local Italian restaurant – the legendary Nick’s Italian Cafe. The first day of that first spring that Fava beans appeared on the menu, everyone was a-buzz with excitement. I hadn’t met this bean before, even in my very food focused world in Chicago, but more likely they just hadn’t been brought to my attention.
Now I wait for their arrival every spring, much like asparagus, artichokes and strawberries. We’ve been members of the same CSA here in town for several years. The Tuesday pick up is always a nice opportunity to check in with the farmers and the other members. While choosing our produce for the week there’s time for a little gossip, maybe swapping recipes and techniques back and forth. When I first lay eyes on the Fava beans amongst the weekly selection I exclaim “Favas!” and Kasey echoes back “Favas!” in the same celebratory tone. We understand each other.
Fava beans are another precious spring delicacy. The season is brief, so you have to make hay while the sun shines. The other day I posted a couple of photos of the Fava beans I was preparing and several of you asked for cooking instructions.
There are a couple of ways to prepare Fava beans, one is more labor-intensive than the other – but worth the effort in my opinion. And it’s not hard, just tedious. Best not to add this to the menu for a big crowd, unless you’ve got a big crowd to help you with the prep.
The easy way is to grill them. Take the beans in their pod (pop off the stem ends first and pull the strings along the side of the pod as best you can) and toss them in olive oil and salt and pepper. Then lay them on a hot grill and cook until there are black char spots on the beans. Maybe 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot your grill is. I like them this way, they are a little smoky and certainly chewy, great next to a grilled burger or something else with robust flavors. Done on the grill, the beans almost remind me of a grilled pepper.
My favorite way to eat Favas though, is the way Nick’s used to serve them all those years ago (and still often do) – in a simple marinated salad.
The first thing to do is to take the beans out of the pod and discard the pods. Then bring a saucepan of water to a boil and blanch the beans for about 1-2 minutes. Dump them in a colander and rinse with cold water. Once they are cool enough to handle, pop the outer skin off each of the beans. As I said, simple but tedious. The inner bright green bean has the delicate flavor and toothsome quality that we’re after.
Once they’re all skinned toss them with a little olive oil, a generous squeeze of lemon, one or two minced cloves of garlic, a handful of fresh chopped herbs (I like Italian parsley) and salt and pepper. Allow all of that to marinate for 20 minutes or more, while you prepare the rest of your dinner and then dig in. A dusting of finely grated parmesan on top certainly wouldn’t be remiss, though I didn’t do that this time.
If you have leftovers, you can toss them in to any other green or grain salad or pasta.