Fava beans aren't exactly knockouts in their original state. They look like furry, grossly overgrown string beans. But once there are popped out of their shell and the outer coating is removed, little shiny green gems are revealed.
Fava beans are a bit high maintenance -- they have to be removed from the pod, blanched and then individually peeled -- but it is not so tedious when you make it a family activity. Plus, fava beans are in season for such a short period of time that it's worth a little work to enjoy them while you can.
Look for fava beans that are bright green, firm and have slightly fuzzy pods. Avoid any that have dark spots or are limp.
Although it is best to use fava beans right after purchase, you can store them in a sealed plastic bag in the crisper drawer in your refrigerator for up to a week. Keep the beans in the pods until you are ready to use them, as shelled fava beans will only last for a few days.
The first step to preparing whole fava beans is to snap off the end of the bean, near the string side. Pull the string that runs along the length of the pod and the side should split open, revealing the beans inside. The beans will pop out of the pod easily.
Once you have the beans removed from the pods, you will need to peel the tough outer layer from the beans. The easiest way to do this is to parboil the beans in salted water for about one minute and then transfer them to an ice bath -- which stops the cooking process. With a bit of pressure, the glossy inner bean will pop out of the waxy outer coating.
Once you have your fava beans removed from the pods and peeled, you are ready to use them in a host of wonderful applications.
Simple sautéed fava beans: Heat a little butter or olive oil in a large pan and saute the shelled and parboiled fava beans for about seven to 10 minutes, or whenever they have reached your desired level of doneness. Squeeze in a touch of lemon juice and season to taste with salt and pepper for simply delicious favas.
Spring succotash: Saute a diced carrot with spring onion, corn and fava beans in olive oil until everything is tender. Toss the sautéed veggies with lemon juice and fresh mint for a lovely spring side dish.
Risotto: Follow your favorite basic risotto recipe, but at the end, stir in a cup of blanched fava beans and asparagus with the Parmesan for a fresh spring version of this all-season favorite.
Puree: If you are making a puree, you'll want to blanch the fava beans until they are fully cooked. Puree the beans with mint, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan cheese and squeeze of lemon juice for a killer puree that is fantastic on anything from crostini to a pasta-perfect pesto.
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