Happy Monday! Glad you’re enjoying the Hippocrates Health Institute video giveaway. It’s been brought to my attention that the video set being offered is worth about $200. So this is quite a steal! If you haven’t entered yet, check it out.
It’s safe to say that all legumes are cherished in the CR kitchen. There’s one bean, however, that holds a special place in my heart. Fava beans–or broad beans, as they English like to call them–top the list of my favorites. Fava beans, which appear in literature dating back to Greco-Roman times, were the only beans eaten by Europeans before they discovered a cornucopia of legumes in the Americas. If we judged beans by size alone, then the unusually plump favas would be kings of the bean world. But it’s not the size alone that makes them so beloved among foodies. They’re also nutty and sweet, and they lend wonderful flavor and texture to late spring and early summer dining. They’re a pain to prepare, but in some ways, the labor intensive process (which can be truncated by cooks in a time crunch) only seems to win them more devotion.
Cooking with fava beans starts with these thick, spotted pods.
Yes, they’re a little creepy looking. Get over it.
To prepare fava beans, you split the pods open and remove the fat beans inside. This actually isn’t easy: the pods don’t just open with a little tug, and you may need a paring knife to help the process along. When you finish, you ought to have a nice little pile of beans for cooking.
To make them edible, you’ll need to par boil them for at least 4-5 minutes in boiling, salted water. I usually give them about 5 minutes, or until they’re tender.
At this point, the beans will be edible, but still hiding under a pale green, waxy coating. If you’re going to serve the beans to guests, I recommend that you remove the coating after giving the beans a little dip in cold water. However, if you’re going to be pureeing them (which, as you’ll see in a moment, I often am), or eating them solo (which again, I often am), it won’t hurt you to leave the waxy coating intact. It’s un-photogenic, but not harmful.
If you are cooking for a crowd, remove the coating. At this point, your beans are ready to be sauteed with olive oil and garlic, to be put in vegetable ragouts, to be served in grain dishes, or whatever presentation you’ve got your heart set on. Lover of bean puree that I am, one of my favorite ways to serve fava beans is in a thick fava puree.
Fava Bean Puree (serves 2-3)
2 cups cooked fava beans, waxy skins removed if possible
3-4 tablespoons high quality olive oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, chopped or minced
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
Place beans, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in the bowl of your food processor (fitted with the S blade), and run the motor till the mixture is chunky and broken down. With the motor running, add olive oil in a thin stream until the mix is blending well. Stop, scrape the bowl, and process again, repeating the process until the puree is totally smooth and uniform (it’s exactly like making hummus).
You’ll have the best results with the puree if you work with fava beans that are still warm from cooking.
You’ll notice that this is one of the few recipes I ever add garlic to. I don’t always, but I do find that it enhances the flavor in a positive way. (It also reminds me of the way my Greek mama and Yaya like ’em!)
The finished puree should be bright green and fragrant. Garnish with a little lemon zest or fresh herbs, and serve as a dip or spread.
The other way I like to eat fava beans is in a simple vegetable ragout. Look up “ragout” online, and you’ll see that it’s often defined as stew: I personally associate ragouts not with hearty winter dishes, but with light assemblies of spring and summer vegetables. My own ragout recipe–the one I’m about to share–is prepared raw-style, but could just as easily work by steaming the veggies, rather than dehydrating them.
Summer Vegetable Ragout with Fava Beans (serves 1)
2 cups summer vegetables of choice: I used broccoli, summer squash, wax beans, and spinach
1/2 cup fava beans, cooked
1/4 cup fresh parsley, flat or curly
1 tablespoon good olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients till evenly coated, and place on a dehydrator sheet. Dehydrate at 115 degrees for about an hour, till the vegetables are tender and much reduced.
What you’ll have is a simple yet delicious sampling of farmer’s market bounty, prepared without fuss. I like to serve my ragout over a bed of grains. In this case, it was millet:
It was a perfect, satisfying, and simple dinner.
You may have noticed that I didn’t bother to remove the waxy skins from the beans. If I had, they’d have looked smoother and more bright. But sometimes we food bloggers can’t concern ourselves too much with the camera, and I had a growling belly.
If you’ve never tackled the mighty fava bean, it’s time to muster up some courage. They bring a lot of personality to a meal, and they also feel substantial (or “meaty,” to use a word I like less), so they’re a great food to serve when you’re cooking vegetarian for non-vegetarian diners. Like most beans, they’re rich in protein, iron, potassium, and fiber, so they make a nourishing meal for everyone. Give either of these dishes a shot, or come up with one of your own. And if you do, come tell me about it!
Tomorrow, I’ll give you a recipe for a “superfood” smoothie (served up with a wink). In the meantime, have a great night!