First up, let’s get the Chianti jokes out of our system. The problem with fava beans is not the association with that villainous character with the voracious appetite. The issue with fava beans is two-fold – preparing fava beans is time intensive, and the process is far from user friendly.
The committed cook would say, “What’s the problem with shelling a few pods? Are you lazy?”
Let’s just say that on a busy work night, when it comes down to a choice between preparing fava beans or nuking a pack of frozen sweet peas, the peas will win every time. I’m not a fan of stringing or shelling.
With fava beans the issue is compounded. First you’ve got to shell the pod, and once you’ve cooked the beans you’ve got to peel a white filmy skin off each bean individually. Hasn’t someone come up with a gadget for this chore? I really don’t believe the people who claim peeling fava beans is relaxing. The process drives me crazy. This usually means that the small harvest of fava beans that comes each year from Restoration Farm sits in the bottom of the crisper until the pods turn an unsightly shade of black.
This season when the fava beans were distributed at Restoration Farm, a number of us debated the issue at some length. What do you do with fava beans? Do you really have to peel that second skin? You will likely encounter a variety of viewpoints that even advocate steaming, grilling or eating the pods whole. I simply determined that I wouldn’t waste the fava beans this year – eating them would be a more desirable solution than letting them rot.
Immediately, upon arriving home, I begin shelling. If you put a little music on, it’s really not so bad. The shell is kind of a fuzzy, velvet-lined cocoon that protects the bright, jadeite-colored beans.
The cooking process takes about a minute. Just toss the beans in boiling water for 60 seconds and then drain the beans, rinsing with cool water to stop the cooking.
Then I must skin each bean individually – tedious, but the color of the cooked beans is even prettier than when the beans are raw.
This leaves me with a little more than a cup of beans. It’s not a great yield for the effort, but now I’m committed to completing this journey. For the final step, I select a recipe for Fava Bean Hummus with Cumin from the book Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison. (Recipe found here). The recipe satisfies my inherent need for instant results – fava beans, garlic, cumin, olive oil, sea salt and lemon juice are pureed in the food processor, producing a sparkling green spread. The preparation of the hummus is lightning fast, quicker, in fact than it takes to shell a handful of pods. The spread is quite fresh and delicious.
And, wouldn’t you know it? I consume the total batch of hummus in about a quarter of the time it takes to shell, cook and peel the beans. I guess all the work attached to preparing fava beans does encourage a voracious appetite. A nice Chianti would have actually encouraged me to linger over the snack.
Until next year, fava beans…