Fava beans are one of seasons best treats.  They started appearing in our produce over the past month and last through most of the summer and peak in July. The beans grow inside large, light green pods that are usually 8 inches in length.  The pods themselves are lined with a fuzzy, spongy material that protects the beans, keeping them tender.  Besides the pods, the beans also have a thick, outer skin that must be removed before the bean is eaten.

A lot of work just for a little bean?  Yes, but they are sooooo worth it.  Their flavor is delicate, a little nutty, slightly bitter, yet fresh.  A fava bean is very tender and adds beautiful color and texture to salads.

Once the beans have been blanched and peeled, they are cooked in boiling salty water and tender enough to eat.  Without any further cooking, the beans can, at this point, be combined with other vegetables or added to a salad.

There are many ways to cook with and eat fava beans.  For example:

  • Eat with only a sprinkle of olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt and maybe a slight touch of hot pepper flakes.
  • Added to a farro or other whole grain or pasta salad.
  • In a salad with other green summer vegetables, such as asparagus and baby arugula.
  • Combined with rice, couscous or orzo or added to a risotto.
  • Add to sautéed scallops or shrimp.
  • Pureed into a dip with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil — a dish called ful medames in Egypt.
  • Sprinkled on top of pieces of toasted bread spread with ricotta or pieces of oil-packed tuna to make a crostini.
  • Tossed with pasta and shavings of pecorino cheese.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of sea salt alongside an antipasto of salami, cheese and sliced tomato.                    
Smashed Fava Bean Bruschetta 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
5 spring onions, white and light green parts
only, thinly sliced
2 cups fresh fava beans, blanched and shucked (approximately 3 pounds in pod)
1/2 cup water
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly chopped mint
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Sliced country bread, toasted

In a medium sized skillet, over medium heat, sauté spring onions and lemon zest in 1 tablespoon olive oil until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Add the fava beans and continue to sauté, until heated through, about 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off.

With a hand masher, or serving fork, lightly smash some of the fava beans. Mixture should be loose, but still partially intact. Squeeze lemon juice over mixture, add the additional tablespoon of olive oil, taste, and season again with salt and pepper if needed.

Spoon fava bean mixture over pieces of toasted country bread. Sprinkle with fresh mint, and Parmesan shavings. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.

Fava Bean Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

3 cups shelled, fresh fava beans (about 3 pounds in the pod)
½ cup Sherry Vinaigrette
1 large head romaine lettuce, or other lettuce, shredded
3 Tablespoons chopped mint
2 spring onions, chopped (white and light green parts)
½ cup slivered prosciutto or leave it out

Cook the favas in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain an drefresh in cold water. Using your fingers, carefully remove the outer peel from each bean. Listen to the radio or enlist help, and keep in mind the fava beans are only here in spring.

Place the peeled favas in a salad bowl. Dress them with half the vinaigrette and let them marinate for about 30 minutes.

When ready to serve, toss the lettuce, mint, and spring onions with the rest of the dressing and place on a serving platter. Top with the favas and the ham.

                               Or you can simply enjoy them with a glass of chianti!
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