Ingredient Introduction #23 – Fava Beans

It’s usually the small screen that inspires me to introduce an ingredient, but this time the silver one made me grab an infamous ingredient.

Feast your eyes on this.

Only Anthony Hopkins and his hair-raising delivery of the words “fava beans” in Silence of the Lambs could make you reach for the gangly pods. They’re also called “broad beans.”

I found them in the produce section at Publix. I’d never seen them there before, so I grabbed a handful.

The price produced the same facial expression Jodie Foster had when she watched Hopkins make that goose-bump-giving suction sound. At $4.99 a pound, I opted to only get a few pods, and it really paid off.

The big green pods are wide, and kinda soft and spongey. You can feel the beans inside them.

Unless they’re very young and fresh, the pods aren’t edible.

They’re famous for being a pain in the tailpipe to prepare, and that’s because they technically have to be shelled twice.

Once you pop open the pods, you’ll find the beans inside. It must be a bit chilly in those holding cells, because each bean is wearing a jacket.

To strip the skin you can either blanche the beans and then squeeze them out of the jacket, or you can slice each raw one open with the tip of a knife and then perform the rescue mission. See why I only bought a few? The heck with the lambs. Shelling a pound or 3 of fava beans would make me break my silence in a very vulgar way.

The problem is that most uses require shelled favas. My way doesn’t.

Here’s what you need:

Big handful of fava beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
Lemon wedges

Set the oven on 450 degrees. While the temperature climbs, line a baking sheet with non-stick foil (this makes cleanup easier).

Rinse and dry the pods, then drizzle the olive oil over the bunch. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper, then rub it all around to make sure each pod gets coated.

Roast them for 25 minutes. Flip them after about 20 minutes.

They’ll be slightly limp and charred.

Using tongs, arrange them on a plate and squirt fresh lemon juice all over them.

Eat them like you would edamame, the soy bean you get at most Japanese joints.

If you haven’t had edamame before, do this: Grab the pod and use your mouth to suck out the beans, or use your teeth to pull them from the pods.

Don’t eat the pods. I repeat. Don’t eat the pods.

By roasting at such a high heat for so long, the bean’s jacket, which is normally bitter, becomes unnoticeable. You avoid the double-shelling process! Hooray!

The roasted beans are creamy and delicate. The flavor is almost like a baked potato. While pulling the bean from the pod, you get the flavor from the salt, pepper, and lemon juice. That citrus-zing elevates the smooth, fresh consistency of the bean itself.

This serving style makes a perfect appetizer for a dinner party. It’s hands-on (and mouth-on) food fun.

Favas are filled with protein, fiber, and minerals.

If you’re feeling brave and want to buy enough for a side dish or feature food, go for it. Shell them, remove the jackets and use the beans in a salad, mixed into rice/pasta, or purée them for a dip.

You can also braise the whole thing, which makes it (pod and all) edible.
In Italy it’s customary to eat the beans raw with nibbles of pecorino cheese.

If you see them, get them! I hear they go splendidly with liver and red wine. Just sayin’.

Tip: If you’re planning to use fava beans in their shelled state, realize that one pound of unshelled (still in pod/jacket) equals one cup of shelled (no pod/jacked). So if you’re making enough for a few people, you’ll need a few pounds!


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