What Am I Supposed To Do With This?
Figuring out how to cook with exotic foods
Okay if I’m being honest here, I didn’t even know what fava beans were until about a week ago when they came up in a recipe book I was perusing. Unlike radishes and kohlrabi, I’d never even seen these guys in the grocery store, and if I had, I probably thought they were soybeans or some superhero breed of green beans. Nope. Fava beans are native to Northern Africa and Southern Asia, but the Finger Lakes region is ripe with them. Once you’ve peeled through both shells (more on that later), the beans have a garbanzo-type consistency with a sweet nutty flavor that makes your mouth feel like summer all over.
Before you use fava beans in any recipe, you’ve got to first take them out of the pod (duh), then peel the extra layer of protection each bean sports. In order to do so, boil the beans for about a minute, then plunge them into ice water to blanch. The white shells should come off with a little pinch leaving you with a fully green bean. Now you’re ready to cook with them! But how?
1. Grill or Roast Them
If you’re looking for a light snack and you really don’t feel like boiling and peeling your beans, simply rub down the pods with olive oil, salt and pepper, pop them on the grill or under the broiler, and eat them right out of the pod. Yes, you still have to remove them from their homes and take the shell off, but now it’s part of the fun!
2. Purée Them
One of the simplest ways of preparing peeled fava beans is to mash and slice them in a food processor until they’re a pasty delight that looks like guacamole and feels like hummus. The most popular additives are garlic, salt, and olive oil, like in this recipe for Fava Bean Hummus. New York Times Cooking suggests throwing some olives into the mix after the purée has been plated and eating it with pita or crostini, but I’d love to see how it tastes on top of some salty ciabatta. Mmm.
3. Sauté Them
So this one’s probably easier than puréeing and also uses garlic, salt and olive oil as the main ingredients. Butter too, if you’re feeling fancy. All you do is heat up the olive oil (and potentially butter for the fancy people) in a skillet on the stove, toss in some diced garlic, then add the beans. Food.com suggests adding fennel, tomatoes, onions, or even some fresh proscuitto to the concoction. (Maybe butter isn’t as fancy as I thought.)
…and, well, there usually happens to be five easy ways to cook with exotic foods, but honestly, these three are all you need when it comes to fava beans. You can throw absolutely anything into fava bean purée (we’re talking spices and other greenery), and you can add sautéed fava beans to most dishes (try adding them with more sautéed veggies to pasta dishes with white sauces). Have at it!
Meredith Clarke is slowly learning how to cook, and her summer internship with Edible Finger Lakes is proving fruitful. Follow her column, What Am I Supposed To Do With This?, and learn alongside her!
Photo courtesy of Summer Tomato