Fava beans, also known as broad beans, grow in places as diverse as China and South America, but we associate them mostly with Mediterranean cuisine. These large, flat legumes, which resemble lima beans, grow in pods that are discarded unless the beans are especially young. Usually favas must be skinned as well as shelled; this is easy to do after they've been cooked briefly in boiling water and dropped into ice water. Fava beans work well in stews and thick purées, or can simply be steamed and eaten with salt and a squeeze of lemon.
- When purchasing fresh fava beans, look for bright green pods that are free of yellow patches. Large beans are starchy and firm, while smaller ones are sweeter and more tender.
- If you are buying shelled beans, make sure they are tender and have a smooth surface.
- To store shelled fava beans, spread them out in a single layer and cover them loosely with plastic wrap for up to three days.
Available from March through September, fresh fava beans are sold in most supermarkets and farmers' markets. They're also available online at Melissa's Produce.
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FEATURED FAVA BEAN RECIPES
Grilled Fava Beans
Young, tender fava beans work best for this preparation; you can pop them right out of the grilled pods and eat them without having to peel them first.
2 lbs. fava beans in the pod
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 lemon, halved
2 oz. Parmesan
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1. Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Put favas into a large bowl, drizzle with 3 tbsp. oil, and season with salt and pepper.
2. Grill favas, turning occasionally, until charred and soft, about 6 minutes.
3. Transfer favas to a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze lemon juice over the top. Season with salt and, using a peeler, peel thin strips of Parmesan over the top of favas. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.
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Morels and Broad Beans
This is a simple but rich spring recipe that combines the earthy quality of morels with the bright sweetness of broad beans (favas). Small broad beans don't need to be individually peeled; if you're using larger ones or older ones (with brownish papery pods), blanch the shelled beans in boiling water for about a minute, then grasp them by the furrowed ends and slip them out of their skins. Get the recipe»
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Fava and Pecorino Salad
Tuscany-based food writer Lori Zimring De Mori suggested we make this dish only with fresh young favas whose skins are so thin and tender that they don't need peeling. Look for smaller unblemished fava pods and snap a few open to see whether the beans are small and thin skinned. Get the recipe»
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Fettuccine with Fava Beans
Fresh young fava beans signal the beginning of spring and all its glory. For best results, add hot pasta to fava beans just as they finish cooking. Get the recipe»
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This recipe, from Everyday Greens: Home Cooking from Greens, the Celebrated Vegetarian Restaurant (Scribner, 2003) by Annie Somerville, is one of our favorite ways to prepare fresh favas. Get the recipe»
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