With their rich, buttery flavor and bright hue, fava beans are some of spring’s best treasures. It’s no wonder chefs love to showcase them on menus this time of year, but favas deserve a place in the home kitchen, too. Don’t be put off by the extra time it takes to shell and peel them — it’s well worth the effort. Read on for our best tips for working with fava beans, then find some simple ways to prepare them this season, straight from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Fava bean pods should be soft and pale green, packed with pale green beans. Store the beans, still in their pods, in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to several days (don’t shell them until just before cooking).
Prep tips: To shell the beans, first, snap off the stem and pull away the tough string on the side of the pod. Then pop open each pod by pressing your thumbnails along its seam. Unless the favas were picked very young and small, you will need to remove the skin covering each shelled bean — it can be tough and bitter. To remove the skins, drop the shelled beans into a pot of boiling water and blanch for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Pinch each bean on the opposite end from where it was attached to the pod and squeeze; the bean should pop free. Use a paring knife to remove any stubborn skins. Here’s your toolkit:
- Williams-Sonoma Thermo-Clad Stainless-Steel Soup Pot, 4-Qt., to boil and blanch beans
- Stainless-Steel 3-Piece Mesh Colander Set, for draining
- Wüsthof Classic Wide Paring Knife, to remove skins
- Cuisinart Elite Die-Cast Mini Prep, for pureeing beans
Uses: Fava beans are delicious in salads, soups and pastas, and they pair with other spring ingredients like asparagus, English peas and fresh herbs. They lend themselves well to Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, as they’re popular in those cuisines. Young spring fava beans are tender enough to be eaten raw — just add a pinch of sharp pecorino cheese.
Fava Beans with Pecorino: Cook shelled fava beans in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and peel. Grate pecorino romano over favas; sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Sauteed Fava Beans: Saute blanched peeled fava beans and English peas in olive oil until tender; season with salt. Sprinkle with lemon zest and julienned mint.
Fava Bean Crostini: Cook shelled fava beans in boiling water until tender, drain and peel. In food processor, puree with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread puree on crostini. Top with shaved Parmesan or grated pecorino romano.
Grilled Shrimp with Fava Bean Puree: In food processor, pulse together blanched peeled fava beans, olive oil, minced garlic, mint, lemon juice, salt and pepper, adding water as needed. Toss peeled deveined shrimp with lemon zest, red pepper flakes and salt. Thread onto skewers and grill. Serve over fava puree.
Fava Bean & Radish Salad: Peel fava beans and blanch in boiling water until just tender. Toss blanched peeled fava beans and thinly sliced radishes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Top with shaved pecorino romano or Parmesan.
Orecchiette with Favas, Morels & Pancetta: Brown diced pancetta and quartered morels in olive oil. Add blanched peeled fava beans and minced garlic and shallot; cook briefly. Add cream and cooked and drained orecchiette. Cook, tossing, until cream has reduced. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.