My British pal Daphne and I were chatting in our local produce market recently when she spotted a display of bright green fava bean pods. “Oh! I must get some of these. They’re wonderful. We call them broad beans, you know. You must get some; this is a terrific price.” (It was — only 49 cents a pound.) I had to agree, and scooped up several handfuls myself.
Fava beans are showing ever-so-fleetingly in the farmers markets these days. If your only encounter with the fava bean is the Hannibal Lecter quote from “Silence of the Lambs,” well, it’s time to reset the brain banks.
Buy yourself a bagful of the oversized bean pods — you’ll need more than you think, as each pod holds only a few beans. But the beans are large, so they add up. As you can see in the photo attached, the beans are well cushioned in the pods, which almost look like styrofoam stuffing on the inside.
As you also should be able to see, the beans are kind of a two-stage process: You have to get them out of the pods, then cook them briefly, then shell them again! They have a protective skin that must be removed before they are edible. (They’re kind of like artichokes in that you end up with way more green leavings than what you started with.)
So shell them, drop them briefly into boiling water (about 30 seconds, or until you can see bright green shading through the “second” skin), then drain and rinse in cold water. To remove the skins, which will now have some slack on them, my method is to pierce or tear it with a thumbnail, then push or squeeze the bean out (faster than trying to peel it). The two bright-green beans at the bottom of the photo are what you’ll end up with (the skins are above them).
Though they are a bit of trouble, favas are tasty — not mealy like legumes, but more like fresh peas, with a touch of bitterness. I like them best just added to a salad. If you can shell enough of them to make a side dish, they’d also be good simply cooked and buttered. Try them in soup, mash them into hummus — just be sure to grab some as soon as you spot them!