The Fava Files

So now you have fava beans and need to do something with them.  Last year's fava bean share inspired the following geeky rant on my kitchen experience with this lovely but ...seemingly unearthly veggie:

I gotta tell ya I found all kinds of wonderful recipes online but actual information on other very important aspects…well… Let’s have a look:

- Storing – I found not much to zero information. I put them in a plastic bag in the crisper of my fridge. I put a few holes in the bag and a paper towel but neither are probably crucial.

- How long they keep – nada, [but luckily from last season I know they should last in your crisper for up to 10 days unshelled.]

- Shelling – I mean….yeah…what do you need. Well…actually you do need a tip on them. You need to know that they work like snow peas or green beans in that you rip the little string and then split the pod open. You also need to know that spots inside and outside of the pod mean nothing. Are the beans green and relatively unbruised? Then you may eat them.

- What they should look like outside of the shell but PRIOR TO BLANCHING! This really was the big one for me. Everyone kept saying “membrane” and I was looking at a pale green lima-esque bean with a little line of dark brown on one end. What was that dark brown line? did it mean the beans were bad…??? so confusing. Since I have no picture of spoiled beans or what the beans should look like upon first shelling... wellll. Ok. Long story short too late, they were fine.

- Blanching – heat some water (enough to be a 2 to 1 ratio for your beans at least, ok) to boiling. Drop the shelled beans in. Set the timer for 3 minutes-ish. Drain the beans.


Ok…this is where things got a little squeemy for me. The beans have this weird wax covering that is breaking away. It is like…the X files where you have to break through a membrane for the flesh…it feels wrong. Am I commiting some sort of modern day veggie version of the Day the Earth Stood Still? 

It looks weird. It takes a little time. Just do it. You’ll thank me later. Peel the membrane (that removes that pesky dark brown thingy!!) off and throw it away. Save beans. Yea.

After all this, I made the following. And it was good:

- two slices of pancetta
- 1 lb. of fava beans unshelled (will be less after shelling and blanching and all:)
- 1 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 small fine minced shallot
- 1 cup broth or water
- 2 cloves garlic
- olive oil and sea salt

- high quality romano and fresh bread.

Chop pancetta finely and then saute until crisp. Add shallot, garlic, rosemary and a dash of olive oil. Then after a minute add the beans. cook over medium heat for two to four minutes (do not brown). Then add broth, turn down heat to medium heat and cover. Cook for 9 to 10 minutes. Check and try to use the spatula to break up the beans. You then may need to add more liquid. You are cooking these beans into a paste. Once you have done that (the beans don’t have to be completely pureed but they need to break up considerably and everything should be a smooth thick spread), spread on bread slices and grate romano on top. Serve on the side of a fresh salad.



The Fava Files b)

I found this recipe in Edward Giobbi's Italian Family Cooking:

Minestrone di Fave All'Abruzzi

2 cups fava beans* (he says soak to cover overnight, but is assuming they are dried beans)
2 slices salt pork, about 3 inches long and 1/4 inch thick
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
7 cups water
1 bay lea
1 medium onion, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup ditallini or other small cut pasta (optional)

Make what is called a battuto by chopping the salt pork, garlic and parsley together with a hot knife. Place battuto in soup pot and simmer over low heat until most of fat is rendered. In the meantime remove the tough outer skins from the soaked and drained fava beans and discard. Add water, bay leaf, onion, fava beans, salt and pepper to taste to the battuto in the soup pot. Bring to a boil then lower heat. Cover and cook at a gentle boil for about 2 hours, sitrring occasionally.

If using pasta, cook it in a separate pot until al dente. Drain and add to soup. Simmer for several minutes. Serve soup with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6