One of spring's marvelous crops is fresh fava beans. So, imagine my surprise to find fava beans at Central Market, in the produce section, in the pod and yes, in the fall.
Fava beans inside the pod.
I bought a bagful of the large and ungainly looking bean pods, shiny green with a few brown spots. My bag cost $3.50, and would yield (after preparation) what I considered a modest-sized serving for one.
An agricultural site on the web told me that when you can find fresh fava beans in the pod, it's a good idea to buy a pound per person. Which is one reason I've looked into growing them in my backyard garden. Another site said that one can grow fava beans in Texas, but the plant doesn't tolerate well temperatures over 80 degrees. It's late October now, and it's still getting up into the 80s.
Fava beans, called broad beans in Britain and also in many other parts of the world, are legumes and one of the world's oldest cultivated crops.
I'd love to hear from anyone who has successfully grown favas in South Texas. (My guess would be that now might be a good time to start seedlings in the cool of the house, and put them in the ground sometime in November. Or, put them in the ground if you have a likely spot in the Hill Country!)
The preparation of the fresh beans is not difficult, but you do have to work your way through two layers of shell that protect the tender beans, which are a fabulous shade of green and as delicious a bean as one can find.
Fava beans, still inside the secondary shells, blanching.
The method is basically this: With a sharp little knife, snip off the tip of the pod and pull at the string, which sometimes helps split the long bean open. More reliable is to split the seam with the knife a little ways, then insert your thumb and run it down the side of the pod. Inside will be the thick, roughly ovoid beans, which you remove. Toss the empty pods.
The creamy colored shells contain the smaller green beans. To get to them, you should have a pan of boiling water ready and toss the beans into it. Let them cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then drain and either put into an ice bath or run cold water over them. When you can handle them, slit open this second shell on one end, then gently squeeze, and the bean should slide out.
Some say that the creamy outer shells are edible as well, just a little bit chewy.
Now, you have a pile of green favas. Taste one - if it is tender, it's ready to add to a recipe, or dress with herbs and olive oil and serve. If the beans are bigger, you can simmer them in a little water, not too long, to the tenderness you want them. Or, saute in a little oil.
Shelled beans: simmer in a little water to tenderize if needed, or saute in oil.
I've served them with fish, with roast chicken, put them in salads and just dressed them lightly and eaten them from the bowl, happy that I'd found them - and thinking, for the 100th time, why don't I grow them? That's plan B.
Here is a recipe that I found on Huffington Post. It's a fine idea for party finger food.
Fava Beans, Herbs and Avocado Bruschetta
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shelled fava beans
4 ounces mixed baby greens
1/4 cup parsley leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves
8 slices French country bread
1 large garlic clove
1 large avocado
Eat fava beans in a recipes, such as this one, or lightly dress with olive oil, salt and pepper and have as a side dish.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine oil, lemon juice, vinegar, maple syrup, and shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk to emulsify. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add fava beans and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and shock in ice water. Remove outer skins and place beans in a large mixing bowl. Add baby greens, parsley, and mint.
Heat a grill pan set over high heat. Rub bread slices with garlic clove and brush or drizzle with olive oil on both sides. Grill until charred with grill lines, about 2 minutes per side. Set grilled bread onto a platter or individual plates.
Cut open avocado. Use a large spoon to scoop out flesh halves. Place on cutting board and slice lengthwise. Top each piece of bread with a few slices of avocado.
Whisk dressing to reincorporate. Drizzle over bowl of favas, greens, and herbs. Toss gently to combine. Divide salad among each piece of bread with avocado slices. Serve immediately.
Yield: 8 appetizer servings.
Adapted (slightly) from Huffington Post recipe