In Season: Fava Beans
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5 fava bean recipes that will get you excited about spring
Fava beans are at their most tender when young, so select smaller pods when possible.
Spring is an exciting time of year, and just when people think that after getting buried in mountains of asparagus, artichokes, spring onions, ramps, and fiddlehead ferns, the harvest couldn't possibly yield more goodies, along come fava beans.
Click here to see the In Season: Fava Beans Slideshow
This ancient bean, also known as the broad bean or field bean, was a staple of Mediterranean and Italian cuisine long before it became the trendy and almost fetishized object of desire for chefs and adventurous cooks today.
Their refreshing, clean flavor and distinct aroma capture the essence of spring in much the same way as asparagus does, which makes them ideal for simple preparations like blanching, sautéing, and puréeing. For more tips on how to select fava beans, click here to see What Is… a Fava Bean?
The best beans, though, crop up early in the season, and so there's no time to waste. Make a trip to the nearest farmers' market with haste and try these recipes soon.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.
In season: Fava bean season is fleeting
Fava beans are a bit finicky to prepare but are worth the effort. Each downy bean pod holds 3-8 plump buttery beans inside. It is best to blanch the beans in salted boiling water to soften the skin of the bean for 30-60 seconds. Shock the beans in ice water to stop the cooking process. Pat them dry and pop the bright green beans out of their skin.
If that seems too fussy, lightly oil and salt the whole pods and cook them on the grill or under the broiler. The exterior will blister. Inside the beans will soften. With this method the beans will be delicious, but the exterior skin will have an opaque grayish color hiding the green gem inside.
I grew fava, or broad beans last season. Because I garden in a small raised bed, my yield for the entire season was unfortunately only enough to make one spectacular pasta dish featuring them. This season I'll let the farmers grow them for me and buy one pound per person when planning my recipes.
Pan-seared diver scallops with fava beans, rhubarb and a yuzu beurre blanc sauce.
A smaller concave pasta like campanelle or orechiette lets the favas, ricotta cheese and prosciutto nestle together, perfectly blending their flavors. Give a finish of freshly cracked pepper. Ravioli stuffed with fava beans, ricotta, mint and a brown butter sauce are transcendent. Pick up fresh sheets of pasta at the market if you don't have time to make your own.
Emiko Davies, who writes about regional Italian food, likes to serve a first course of fava bean crostini. The beans are smashed in a mortar and pestle and seasoned with pecorino Romano and lemon before being slathered on grilled ciabatta bread. Pick up a loaf of bread and some cheese at the vendors at your local farmers market for your own regional meal.
Artichokes stuffed with fava beans and fresh mint and dill are eaten throughout the Mediterranean region, popular in Italy, Croatia and Turkey.
In Egypt, ful medames, a stew made with dried fava beans, is eaten for breakfast. Falafel made with favas instead of chickpeas is another great way to use dried beans. Adding lots of fresh herbs to the mix make the inside of the patty bright green.
Before you go to market, watch a quick video of the peeling process. Fava beans contain tyramine which should be avoided by anyone taking antidepressant drugs that are monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
You can reach Rachel Weston at [email protected] or The Star-Ledger, Savor/Today, 1 Star-Ledger Plaza, Newark, N.J., 07102. Twitter: roxydynamite
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In season: fava beans
Fava beans are the gourmet darling of the bean world. They’re not often brought to market here in the Atlanta area, but for the next few weeks Megan Davis of Habitat Farm in Mansfield will have fresh fava beans at the Saturday Snellville and Marietta Square farmers markets as well as at the Tuesday Whistle Stop Farmers Market in Norcross.
Home cooks won’t be the only ones enjoying the farm’s fava beans. The farm has just begun selling to local restaurants like Vino Venue in Dunwoody and Sotto Sotto and Fritti in Atlanta’s Inman Park.
It was her culinary background that prompted Davis and her husband Tyler to plant fava beans. “They’re such an unusual gourmet vegetable and it seems like they’re becoming really trendy. I wanted to cook with them,” said Davis.
She also knew that no matter how delicious the harvest, the plants themselves would be good for the pasture land the Davis’ are reclaiming on their new farm. At the end of the harvest they’ll cut down the plants and till the roots into the soil. The roots are where the plants store nitrogen and tilling them in makes the nitrogen available for other plants, in effect fertilizing the soil.
Fava beans went into the ground early in March, one sowing of about 600 row feet. Davis estimates they’ll get about 1,000 pounds of beans from that planting and should have fresh fava beans at market for two or three weeks. In the fall, they’ll plant again.
A fully grown fava bean pod looks a bit like a sugar snap pea on steroids. No doubt one reason they’re such a gourmet item is the amount of work it takes to go from fava bean in the pod to fava bean in your recipe.
First step in preparation is shelling the beans. Snap off the end and zip the attached string down the pod. It will split open revealing a line of large bright green beans shaped a lot like lima beans. But the beans still aren’t ready to eat.
Each bean is covered with a waxy-looking skin. Although some say you can eat the skin, most cooks will remove that skin, which can be a little tough and bitter. That step requires boiling the beans for just a minute and then popping the bright green bean out of its skin. Now they’re ready to eat.
Davis likes to use fava beans for succotash, a dish she creates on the spot with flavorful olive oil, fava beans, fresh corn, red onion and garlic. Another favorite way to use the beans is to make a dip similar to hummus.
There's still time to sign up for Habitat Farm's community-supported agriculture program. The new farm is home to an even larger population of hens and ducks and an egg subscription can be added to the weekly basket of produce. More information is available at http://habitatfarms.com/.
4 – 8 p.m., Thursday, June 6. Chef Seth Freedman of Forage and Flame offers demos throughout the evening.
9 a.m. Saturday, June 8. Chef David Larkworthy, Five Seasons Brewery, working with blueberries. Morningside Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.morningsidemarket.com
10 a.m. Saturday, June 8. Chef Ron Eyester, Rosebud and Family Dog. Peachtree Road Farmers Market, Atlanta. www.peachtreeroadfarmersmarket.com
11 a.m. Saturday, June 8. Emily Myers of Emily G’s Jam. Green Market at Piedmont Park, Atlanta. www.piedmontpark.org
Noon. Saturday, June 8. James Liles, Sprig. Green Market at Piedmont Park, Atlanta. www.piedmontpark.org
Vegetables and fruit: artichokes, arugula, Asian greens, beets, blackberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, chard, collards, cucumbers, dandelion, English peas, fava beans, fennel, garlic and green garlic, herbs, kale, kohlrabi, lamb’s quarters, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, onions, parsnips, peaches, potatoes, radicchio, radishes, rutabaga, sorrel, spinach, spring onions, strawberries, sugar snaps, summer squash, tomatoes, turnips
TAP’s Creamy Fava Bean Succotash
This recipe comes from Nick McCormick, executive chef at the Midtown gastropub TAP. He recommends serving this succotash as a side dish with grilled fish or chicken.
It will take at least 2 pounds of fava beans in the pod to yield 3 cups shelled beans.
1 cup oyster mushrooms, stems trimmed
6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
3 cups shelled fava beans
1/4 pound pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Toss mushrooms with 1 teaspoon olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast until mushrooms lose their liquid and turn golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir mushrooms at least three times during roasting. Remove from oven and set aside.
While mushrooms are cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Drop in beans and boil until skins start to shrivel, about 1 minute. Drain beans and drop into ice water. When cool, drain beans and peel off outer skin. Discard skins and set beans aside.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and saute until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove pancetta from pan and pour off any remaining fat, but do not wipe out pan. Add another tablespoon olive oil, lower heat to medium and add shallots and garlic. Cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze it. After 30 seconds, add reserved mushrooms and fava beans, corn and cream. Raise heat and cook until cream reduces by half, about 4 minutes. Add parsley, chives, tarragon and lemon juice. Toss gently, then add remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, season to taste and serve while hot.
Adapted from a recipe by chef Nick McCormick of TAP.
Per serving: 617 calories (percent of calories from fat, 46), 28 grams protein, 56 grams carbohydrates, 20 grams fiber, 32 grams fat (12 grams saturated), 68 milligrams cholesterol, 542 milligrams sodium.
Star Ingredient of the Season: Fava Beans
Fava beans are in season from late April through June in this region. These beans are tasty, versatile and really nutritious, making them popular with everyone from vegans and vegetarians to Hannibal Lecter, who is certainly at the other extreme of that scale! Also known as broad beans, field beans, bell beans, pigeon beans and English beans, these little legumes were cultivated in the Middle East for 8,000 years before they were grown in Europe. They were found in early human settlements and believed to date back to the neolithic era. Fava beans were cultivated in Egypt, Greece and Rome, although they were considered "poor people food" in ancient Egypt and therefore shunned by the upper classes.
How to Prepare Them
Check that your beans are fresh by opening a pod. The lining inside should be soft and moist. Fava beans keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days, either in a paper bag or a plastic one. In France and the United States, the outer skin of the beans is removed before the beans are blanched, but in many other countries the skin is not removed. The beans are young and tender when they are harvested in the middle of spring, while the main crop sown in early spring is ready for harvest in mid to late summer.
The immature pods can be eaten, as well as the the young leaves of the plant, raw or cooked. Fava beans can be fried, which makes the skin split open. They are then spiced or salted to make a crunchy snack. Mashed fava beans are a common filling for Mexican antojito snacks. These beans are a popular addition to soups in Colombia, and they are also popular in Pakistan and the eastern province of Iran.
Fried favas are a great snack.
Health Benefits of Fava Beans
As well as being very high in protein and a good source of dietary fiber, fava beans are high in phytonutrients and L-dopa, a precursor of the brain's neurochemicals like epinephrine and dopamine. They are rich in folates and also contain Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, niacin and riboflavin, along with copper, iron, calcium and magnesium. Fava beans are one of the best plant sources of potassium, something many Americans are lacking from their diet.
In a Starring Role at: Dandanah Café & Grill
Known for its exciting Egyptian and Middle Eastern cuisine, Dandanah offers a wide range of exotic treats. If you want to enjoy seasonal fava beans, consider the foul medemas (pronounced "fool") which are slow-cooked fava beans. You can get it prepared with tomatoes, garlic, lemon and tahini sauce or garlic, cumin and lemon, or in combination. Falafel is always popular and at Dandanah, these crunchy balls are made with fried, ground fava beans, herbs and spices. The falafel comes with tahini sauce, lettuce and tomatoes on homemade bread. The falafel platter is similar but includes pickles too. For dessert, choose the flaky, buttery, sweet feteerah with custard and nuts.
Recipe: Fava Bean and Fennel Spring Salad
This light and tasty salad pairs the fava beans and fennel with Parmesan, mint, green onions and lemon juice, for a crisp and zingy appetizer to showcase the fresh taste of the beans. This recipe makes four servings.
- 2 pounds fresh fava beans
- 1 small fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
- 2 sliced green onions
- Extra-virgin olive oil, to taste
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 10 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
- 2 ounces Parmesan, sliced
Shell the fava beans by squeezing them with your fingers and bending the pods. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of beans. Put the shelled beans in a pot with 2 quarts of boiling salted water. Simmer for 3 minutes or until just tender. Remove them with a slotted spoon and put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. This also encourages them to turn bright green. Let them sit in the water for 2 minutes then drain and remove the outer peel. Mix the beans with the fennel and green onions. Add extra-virgin olive oil and salt and black pepper and stir well. Add the lemon juice, mint and Parmesan and toss to mix. Serve garnished with some fronds from the fennel bulb if liked.
Stay tuned every week to learn more about what's fresh and exciting at the market and discover where you can enjoy the flavorful bounty of the season.
It's spring! Do yourself a fava
Fresh fava beans (a.k.a. broad beans) are not front and center in American cuisine, but they sure do deserve a spotlight. Legumes are nutritional powerhouses for those who eat the beans and for the soil they fertilize as they grow and then decompose. Frequently eaten in cuisines of the Middle East, Europe, South America and Africa, fava beans are high in protein and fiber and rich in antioxidants. Fresh favas have a refreshing, bright earthy flavor and a creamy, buttery texture (moreso than their dried counterparts). They are delicious, nutritious and can be used in a multitude of preparations.
You can make the fresh fava bean the star of the dish with a fava bean purée (fresh fava beans are much creamier than canned) or in this vegetarian spin on shrimp scampi. Favas play nicely with others, too, pairing particularly well with other young spring vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus and peas. Blanched in a salad, sauteed in a spring vegetable medley or lightly braised in a ragout they are equally delicious. Favas lend vibrance and texture to a stewy preparation like shakshouka. A creamy, tangy smash hits the textural midpoint between a puree and leaving the beans whole.
To the uninitiated, any of these recipes will be a good introduction to working with fresh fava beans as each describes how to shuck and peel the beans. One word of caution: People who are G6PD deficient should avoid favas, fresh or dried.
For a rundown of how different cuisines embrace this versatile legume, check out Sylvia Thompson’s timeless ode to favas.
What are Fava Beans (Broad Beans)?
Fava beans are legumes and are rather large when fully grown. The pods are much thicker than pea pods and the beans themselves have a thick coating which should be removed if they are really mature (because they can be tough). You can read more about the super interesting history of fava beans, including the fact that they’ve been cultivated since 6000 BC!
You can see the difference when these beans have been peeled (they split in half and look more tender).
How do you prepare fava beans?
Fresh fava beans are coming into season now. People tend to shy away from this somewhat fussy legume, and while yes, they are a bit of work, the results are so worth it.
Looking like giant, soft pea pods, fresh fava beans must be peeled and blanched before the bright green bean appears. They add a spark of flavour and lightness after a winter’s reliance on root vegetables. They are also a source of fibre, iron, protein and several vitamins.
Fava beans, known as broad beans in the U.K., also come dried, which can be cooked and puréed. You’ll find the dried beans both peeled and unpeeled the peeled ones are much easier to cook. When served with a side of chicory or rapini, they become the classic Puglian dish Fave e Cicoria (fava beans with chicory). Add tahini and spices to make fava bean hummus. These beans are also occasionally available frozen or canned. If you need a substitute, use lima beans.
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There are two steps to preparing fava beans: peeling off the outer pod and removing the waxy covering to reveal the creamy, delicious treat inside.
Peel the large pods from the top – they peel effortlessly – and remove the beans nestled inside. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, toss in the beans and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain and immediately stir into ice water to cool. The tough, waxy outer skin will now easily be released. Slip or pinch off the skin from each bean and discard. The beans are ready for eating either raw or lightly cooked.
To highlight this legume’s flavour, try simple preparations. They can be sautéed quickly in olive oil with a little prosciutto, or eaten as a salad, served along with asparagus and a sharp cheese such as asiago. Try folding them into risotto just before serving or tossing with couscous. If they are large and tough, mash with butter or olive oil and add garlic, paprika, cayenne, ground ginger and cumin.
Fava beans freeze well. Remove the outer pod and freeze with the waxy skin still intact. Once defrosted the skin will peel off easily.
A pound of fava beans in the pod yields about one cup of shelled beans, and one cup of shelled beans will give you about ½ a cup of skinned beans.
Spring snow pea and fava bean salad
Peel outer pods from 450 grams (1 lb.) of fava beans. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add fava beans. Cook 30 seconds and remove with slotted spoon. Add snow peas and cook 1 minute longer or until crisp tender. Drain. Run cold water over favas and peas. Peel tough skin from favas and mix with snow peas. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and 2 tablespoons chives. Shave over as much Parmesan as you like. Serve on a bed of lettuce.
You can substitute asparagus for the snow peas, just blanch an extra minute.
Authentic Greek Fava recipe (Yellow Split Peas Puree)
- Author: Eli K. Giannopoulos
- Prep Time: 5 min
- Cook Time: 50 min
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 10 portions 1 x
- Category: Dips
- Method: Boiled
- Cuisine: Greek
Creamy and super tasty! If you’ ve been looking for a fava recipe that actually tastes like the one served in Greece, then you have to try this authentic Greek fava recipe.
- 500g yellow split peas ( 18 ounces )
- 3 red onions, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 lt warm water (3 and 1/3 cups )
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1/3 of a cup olive oil
- salt and freshly pepper
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- Rinse the split peas with plenty of water.
- Heat a large pot over medium-high heat add 2-3 tbsps olive oil, the chopped onions, garlic and some fresh thyme and sauté.
- As soon as the onions start to caramelise add the peas and blend. Pour in the warm water and the olive oil, turn the heat down to medium and season well with salt and pepper. Simmer with the lid on for about 40-50 minutes, until the split peas are thick and mushy. While the split peas boil, some white foam will probably surface on the water. Remove the foam with a slotted spoon.
- When done, pour in the lemon juice and transfer the mixture in food processor. Mix, until the peas become smooth and creamy, like a puree.
- Serve the fava with a drizzle of olive oil, a tablespoon of diced onion and some capper or chopped parsley. Enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1 portion
- Calories: 248kcal
- Sugar: 5.6g
- Sodium: 241.6mg
- Fat: 7.2g
- Saturated Fat: 1g
- Unsaturated Fat: 5.8g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 35.8g
- Fiber: 13.4g
- Protein: 12.3g
- Cholesterol: 0mg
Keywords: Fava recipe, Greek Fava dip, Greek Split Pea Puree, Santorini Fava
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Eli K. Giannopoulos
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Cacio e Pepe
Cacio e Pepe is a simple, traditional Roman pasta dish with pepper and cheese, and it makes a perfect vehicle for spring veggies like fava beans and asparagus.
- 1-2 cups fava beans, out of their pods
- 8 oz. (250 g) long, dry pasta, such as spaghetti, bucatini or linguine
- 2-3 few asparagus stalks, cut into 1-2-inch lengths (optional)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1-2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1-1½ cups finely grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (even better, a combo), plus extra for serving
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the podded fava beans for 3-5 minutes, until softened and losing some of their colour. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon into a bowl of cool water to stop them from cooking, then slip them out of their skins.
Cook the pasta in the water (the same, or fresh salted water) until al dente. If you like, add some asparagus for the last minute or two of cooking time. Before draining, scoop out about a cup of the starchy cooking water with a ladle or measuring cup.
As the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large skillet (one that will accommodate your pasta) over medium heat, grind in a generous amount of pepper and allow it to toast for about a minute. Add the butter and about ½ cup of the starchy water and whisk it all together.
Drain and add the pasta (or transfer it to the skillet with tongs). Add the fava beans and cheese and toss with tongs, adding more hot pasta water until it emulsifies and turns into a creamy sauce. Serve immediately.