may 8, 2020

Fava Bean Basics

Fava beans, also called broad beans (not to be confused with lima beans), are one of our favorites. With a delicate, earthy taste and creamy texture, they enhance all sorts of spring and summer dishes with their vibrant green.
The great fava has a surprisingly compelling history stretching at least as far back as ancient Egypt, including a sixth century B.C. prohibition of the bean due to a feared poisonous effect touted by Greek philosopher Pythagoras (yes, the triangle guy!). More recently, fava beans have surged in popularity in the U.S., where they are often highlighted on restaurant menus by chefs from around the globe.
Whether you run into favas at the farmers market, in your CSA box, or on the produce aisle, relish them while you can! We’ve shown them above tossed with shaved zucchini ribbons, greens, and some crumbled feta, all dressed up with edible flowers for your Mother’s Day table. Read on for our easy guide to shelling and serving these beautiful beans.
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Fava Bean Basics

Author the Civic Kitchen

Tender fresh favas have a bright green flavor that speaks irresistibly of Spring. They also have a reputation for finicky preparation - all that de-shelling & peeling (twice)! Harold McGee's genius idea of adding baking soda to the blanching water makes for quicker fava prep - the alkaline soda helps the beans to pop right out of their skins.

Adapted from: Fava bean peeling improvements from food scientist Harold McGee
Yield   2 pounds fava pods yield about 1 cup of peeled beans


Basic Fresh Fava Beans

2 pounds fresh fava pods

1 tablespoon baking soda

Crushed Favas with Mint & Lemon

1 cup peeled favas (from about 2 lbs fava pods)

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped spearmint leaves

Juice of ½ lemon

Kosher or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper


Basic Fresh Fava Beans:
Prepare a bowl of ice water. Bring a medium pot of water to a vigorous boil while you remove the fava beans from their pods.
Add a tablespoon of baking soda to the pot, then blanch the beans for 2-5 minutes (depending on their size). Fish them out as their skins pop so they don't absorb the soapy taste of the soda, and drop them into the ice water. When tender - taste one! - remove any remaining skin-on beans from the boiling water to the ice water. Peel by gently squeezing the thick end of the bean, if necessary nicking the thin end with your thumbnail.
Toss them into salads, pasta or risotto, or use them make the Crushed Favas below.
Crushed Favas with Mint & Lemon
Pulse the favas, olive oil, mint and lemon juice in a food processor along with ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Stop when you reach a nice chunky, spreadable consistency - you don't want this as smooth as hummus. Taste and adjust the balance of ingredients to suit your palate. No food processor? No problem. Mash the ingredients by hand with a pastry blender or large sturdy fork.
Servings suggestions:
- Toss with cooked pasta, tiny-cubed Pecorino cheese, and a few mint leaves
- Serve as a dip for crudités or pita bread
- On a cheese platter for a vibrant pop of green
- Spread on crostini as a dramatic backdrop for shaved radishes or a pretty pink shrimp