Hello, friends! It’s been awhile since our last meal together! I’m a married woman now and I’m happy to report that summer has officially found its way to New England! Having survived such a cold and snowy winter, I am very appreciative of the ice cream, fresh berries, and beautiful green vegetables that are dressing up my plate these days—though let’s be honest—I ate a lot of ice cream this winter.
Apart from all the ice cream, visiting the Farmers Market is one of my favorite parts about summer. The feeling I get when a fruit or vegetable makes its first appearance of the season is almost as exciting as spotting a celebrity. Almost. I most recently felt this rush when a huge mound of bright green fava beans caught my attention. I can’t tell you why, but fava beans have always felt so luxurious to me. Maybe it’s because they can be a bit hard to find. Or maybe it’s because they come early in the season after a long winter of one too many dark, leafy greens. Either way, seeing a fava bean at the Farmers Market is a big deal—a big enough deal where if I could, I would do a back flip.
Fava beans taste fresh, green and summery. It’s hard for me to describe their flavor exactly, but the word “earthy” comes to mind—earthy like a raw mushroom or those alfalfa sprouts you might put on a sandwich. Their flavor is complex and I like to prepare them as simply as possible.
The one thing about fava beans is that like a nesting doll, they’re hidden beneath a few outer layers of “packaging”. The beans grow in a huge, fuzzy pod and so a couple pounds of them might only yield a small bowl when shelled. They also have a thick outer skin that should be removed. The best way to remove the skin is by boiling the shelled beans for about a minute in salted water, followed by shocking them in an ice bath. The ice bath not only helps loosen the skin a bit; it also stops the cooking process before the beans have a chance to get mushy. The result is a beautiful bowl of al dente fava beans: bright green and tender with just the slightest firmness at the center.
Once peeled, your fava beans can be eaten as-is, or you can dress them with a little lemon zest, olive oil, black pepper and course salt. The lemon zest and salt compliment the earthiness of the beans, while the fruity olive oil adds a rich, silky texture. If you can, shoot for some quality extra virgin olive oil. Since the beans are a bit buttery, a little bitterness and acidity from a flavorful olive oil will balance the flavors beautifully.
The dressed fava beans are great right out of the bowl, but some toasted bread with a drizzle of olive oil goes a long way. Sprinkle on a little extra course salt for good measure, and you’re on your way to one of the simplest, most luxurious tastes of early summer!
Though the preparation of fava beans can be a bit time consuming, the final product comes together in just a few minutes.
2-3 lbs fava beans in their pods
1-2 tsp lemon zest
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
freshly ground black pepper and course salt, to taste
Remove the fava beans from their pods by separating them lengthwise with your fingers. Discard the pods and store the beans in a small bowl.
Meanwhile, bring 8 cups of salted water to a boil. Toss the beans into the boiling water and allow them to boil for approximately one minute. Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, remove the beans from the boiling water and transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water.
Once they have cooled, strain the beans. Using the fingernail of your thumb, pierce a hole in the tough outer skin near the “seam side” of the bean. Carefully remove and discard the skins, and place the peeled beans into a small bowl.
Gently toss the beans with the lemon zest, olive oil, salt and black pepper.
If serving with bread, toast the bread and drizzle with olive oil. Pile the beans over the toast and sprinkle with a pinch of course salt. The fava beans taste best when served at room temperature.