Fava Beans 101 (and a delicious sandwich recipe!)

I love fresh fava beans.  This is the time of year when you’ll see them showing up in salads and pastas and soups at your favorite restaurants.  But I’ve noticed that a lot of people avoid playing with them at home, with the common refrain being something along the lines of:  “I’ve heard they’re really difficult to work with.”  I am here to set the record straight.  While they do take a little effort, they are not challenging at all, and the rewards are well worth any time you put in.

First, what do they look like in their natural state?  They are like giant, somewhat gnarled pea pods.  While I prefer to find them loose at farmer’s markets, you should also be able to get them (often bundled) at your local market.  That’s where I got these:

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Not the most attractive things, but don’t let that outer covering fool you.  There’s something quite fun and delicious lurking within.  Preparing the favas is a three-step process:  

Step 1.  Remove the outer covering and collect the beans.  This is quite simply done, and you will develop your own favorite technique.  You can rip the side off and squeeze or lift the beans out.  You can pop them in half and, again, squeeze the beans out.  There’s no wrong or right way.  Just get those beans out and collect them.  Here, Queenie demonstrates her pop-in-half-and-squeeze technique.

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Once you have completed this step, you will be left with a bowl full of very firm beans that look like this.

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IMPORTANT NOTE:  Do not eat them yet!  This is the moment in their preparation that tends to give them their high-maintenance reputation because they still have an outer covering on them that needs to be removed.  How do you get it off?

Step 2:  Blanch the beans (dump them into boiling water for just a couple of minutes.  Seriously, 2 or 3 minutes, tops), and then immediately cool them down, using either an ice bath or running cold water on them.  As you boil them, you should notice them getting a brighter green.

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Once they have cooled, you are on to Step 3:  you are going to remove that outer covering, which is nice and loose and cooperative now, by squeezing it and popping out the bright green bean within.

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Work through your pile of beans and when you’re done, you’ll have a bowl full of husks (throw them away):

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… and a bowl full of vibrant green, ready to eat fava beans!

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You can do anything you want with the favas at this point, but should you need some inspiration, here’s my favorite fava bean sandwich recipe:

Combine the prepared favas with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mash with a fork to combine.  You don’t want a perfect puree – some chunks are nice.  Slice a baguette and coat lightly with vegan mayo.  Spread the bottom side of the bread with mashed avocado, then put a nice layer of the fava mixture on top of it, followed by some arugula.

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Enjoy!  xo

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