Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Fava Bean Dilemma and a Fava Bean Hummus with Cumin

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…

©2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I shelled more than my share of peas & beans during my childhood and I've heard some of the stories of the fava bean prep, but I've never seen first hand what is involved. Yikes. Those babies are a LOT of work. That's what I call a labor of love.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Beautiful as those farm-fresh beans are, I admit I'd opt for the lazier route: buying ready-to-cook beans from my local "gourmet" market. Hats off to you for going the extra mile for those beans this year!

Sophies Foodie Files said...

If you love fava beans as much as I do, then you will love this recipe too:

I love this tasty easy peasy recipe too! :) Yummmm!

Gloria Baker said...

These look really wonderful!

~~louise~~ said...

The true makings of a "farmer," T.W. I'm so proud of you for reaping the rewards of the delectable fava bean.

I've actually done the ritual one, two, three or more times in my early life and the only encouragement I can remember is that glass of Chianti by my side. (my grandmother and us kids shelled a whole lotta beans through the years and wine was always present:)

I don't particularly care for fava beans but I think it's a texture thing. I have a feeling as a hummus, I would most likely enjoy them:) (Cumin also helps:)

Thank you so much for sharing, T.W...

Catherine said...

Dear T.W., That is time consuming but with delicious results and healthy too. I would say time well spent.
Have a delicious week. Blessings, Catherine

Axelle the french cook said...

T.W, you made me laugh !!! I do agree absolutly with you ! Between fresh or frozen vegetables, sometimes, only our courage will determine our choice. One day, we can do it, the day after, better use frozen ones. Your hummus seem very good. My mother make fava grilled, with oil and salt. We use to eat them for aperitive, like peanuts.

Zany said...

See, if you started drinking the wine BEFORE you even started the shelling process I'm sure time would've gone by even quicker!

Laura Luciano said...

Fava Beans are worth the effort... and I may be the minority here when I say I truly do not mind the peeling and fuss. They make a great soup puree as well. To get a nice size portion yield for a few you may need to throw a fava paty with some chianti! They will surely come.

Deana Sidney said...

Call me evil but a few years ago, WF had frozen fava beans. It was divine. A whole bag was less than 4 dollars and they were quite good. Then whoosh, they were gone.

I love them, truly do but they are a royal pain to work with and enough for 4 people means bags of beans and hours of work. I usually just do a bag for myself and enjoy them... they are sooooo good.

Mae Travels said...

Fresh fava beans sound a lot easier to work with than dried beans. I checked the recipe for Egyptian Ful Medames, which is similar to hummus, said to be as old as the pyramids -- hours of steaming!

Do the fresh ones make better hummus than canned ones?

best... mae at