A quick and tasty spring lunch with all the essentials: seasonal vegetable, bright flavor, protein and starch. Fava beans are fiddly to prepare but so worth it. Like hidden treasure. High in iron, protein and fiber. Low in calories. An elegant workhorse popular the world over in peasant diets.
The flavor is sweeter, nuttier and meatier than lowly lima beans. The texture is firmer and more distinct. Scattered on a spring stew or salad, favas add vivid green color and an appealing shape.
Favas are also called broad beans. Buy a few pounds of unblemished whole beans to yield a little over one cup of shelled beans. Unlike green beans, they are soft to the touch. Shuck the lot of them, opening the squishy, floppy long pods to release the beans inside. Then parboil the beans in salty water for 3 minutes. Put on a good radio program or music and settle in to remove the tender inner beans from the casings. That’s the time-consuming part. What’s left is a mound of pretty green favas ready to be made into a puréed dip or served on garlic-rubbed toast as I did today. You can freeze the shelled beans for later use.
Fava Bean, Mint and Pecorino Bruschetta
Lunch for one – or an appetizer for two
1/2 cup shelled, parboiled fava beans
Large pinch of fresh mint, large leaves torn into pieces
2 tablespoons excellent quality olive oil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and fresh pepper
One slice of good bread, toasted
Small clove of garlic
A few shavings of Pecorino (or Parmesan) cheese, sliced with a vegetable peeler
Stir together favas, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Rub garlic clove on just-toasted bread, to flavor it. Cut bread into halves or quarters (smaller pieces are better if serving as an appetizer). Spoon fava mixture onto bread and top with cheese shavings. Transported to Italy!