Fava beans are a gardener’s dream. The come up early in Spring, they’re easy to grow, and their roots fix nitrogen in the soil, helping to prepare the soil for vegetables planted later in the season. They are delicious, though you do have to work for it. Unless very young, the beans need to be shucked twice, first before cooking to remove the bean from the pod, and then after cooking to remove the tough outer membrane from the bean. Garrett was over the other day to help pick and shuck and we made this lovely spring salad with fava beans from my garden. Fennel and Parmesan are one of those weird but wonderful flavor combinations that work great alongside fava beans and mint .
We still have plenty of favas growing in our garden. Do you have a favorite way of preparing them? (Hold the Hannibal Lector quote, thank you.) If so, please let us know about it in the comments.
- 2-3 lbs fresh fava beans (also called broad beans), yielding about 1 1/2 to 2 cups shelled beans
- 1 small bulb fennel, thinly sliced (mandoline works well for this)
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced
- 10 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade by stacking leaves and rolling them into a cigar shape, cut thin slices from the end)
- 2 scallions (green onions), sliced
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper
1 Fava beans need to be shelled twice, first before cooking to remove the outer pod, then after cooking, to remove the tough membrane around the bean. To remove the outer pod, work over a large bowl and squeeze the bean with your fingers, bending the pod so that when it snaps, the bean inside shoots out into the bowl. Remove all the beans from their pods.
2 Add the beans to 2 quarts of boiling, salted water. Simmer the beans for a few minutes, until just tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beans from the pan and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, and to shock the beans into a bright green color. Let the beans sit in the ice water for a minute or two, then drain them and remove the outer peel.
3 In a bowl combine the freshly peeled and cooked fava beans, the sliced fennel, and onions. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the mixture, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Squeeze some lemon juice over the the salad (about a tablespoon), add the Parmesan and mint, and toss to mix. Garnish with fennel fronds and/or mint sprigs.