Spring Fresh Fava Beans

It’s possible that this is the first time that I have have eaten fresh fava beans.  They may have been cultivated for thousands of years, but they haven’t made it into the everyday American diet.

It’s kind of sad really – they have a great flavor and are VERY high in nutrition.  Beating out chickpeas in almost all areas including magnesium.  And we people are getting more and more magnesium deficient, which is not a good thing.  They also have something verrrrrry interesting in the skins that cover the bean itself.  Which is why you may not want to peel them once they are shucked out of the pod.  I’ll expand on that just a bit further on down in this post.

If you belong to a CSA or shop at farmers markets you might run into them once spring arrives.  They are an early legume and will be labelled as either “Fava” or “Broad Beans”.

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To shell them, simply cut off the ends and run your fingernail down the seam to open the pod.  Pop the beans out.

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Boil for 30 seconds in salted water, and then shock them in a bowl of ice cold water.  Drain, and they are ready to use!  Now you can eat them cold in a salad, or reheat them right before serving.

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Some people like to peel them, but most italians will think you are kind of crazy for doing so.  It’s time consuming, fiddly, changes the flavor a bit and….is going to remove a lot of the proanthocyanidins.  Proanthocyanidins are a powerful class of antioxidants.  The same kinds of antioxidants found in pine bark and grape seed for example. You might even notice that your cooking water turned pink once you cooked the beans.  Invisible when raw, the cooking released all those colors of the proanthocyanidins into the water.  Pretty interesting.

A full pound of pods yields about (maybe) 2 cups of cooked beans, so plan accordingly. My original plan was to serve a big bowl of fave (fave is the plural of fava) with a simple seasoning of olive oil, salt and pepper, and oregano.  I did not plan accordingly, so it morphed into something different.

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A beautiful, aromatic skillet of fava beans with spring vegetables, herbs, and a 12 month aged Corsican ham called Bianco and Nero Jambon that I purchased on a recent trip.

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To make a similar skillet dish, thinly slice 1 or 2 new red onions and saute in olive oil until translucent.  Add a small amount (maybe 3-4 oz or so) of chopped corsican ham.  An aged prosciutto or ham will work just fine.  The fat from the ham will add a little more oil to the pan, as well as salt, and the onions will start to caramelize quite well.  Move to the edge, and add some thin sliced asparagus and fresh herbs.

Cover, and cook until the asparagus is fork tender.  Toss in your fava beans (fave) to heat through, and serve!

Spring Fresh Fava Bean Preparation

2 lbs fava bean pods

Pot of boiling water, salted

Bowl of ice cold water

Remove the beans from the pod by cutting off the heads and tails of the pods, and running your fingernail down the seam.

Boil the beans for 30 seconds.

Remove with slotted spoon and shock in the ice water.

Drain and serve cold in a salad, or gently reheat later for other dishes.

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