What they are:
Although for many folks fava beans are best known as Dr. Hannibal Lecher's fave accompaniment to liver and a nice Chianti, favas — aka broad beans, English beans, horse beans and pigeon beans — have long been dietary staples in Asia, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and Europe. They are one of the oldest cultivated plants. (And super easy to grow!) In the market fresh favas look like slightly overgrown and very bumpy string beans.
How to use them:
Like peas, favas should be harvested and consumed when they are young. Sweet and tender, bitter and buttery, they are at their very best right now. To release them from the pod: Pinch off the stem and pull away the string that runs along the seam of the pod. Run your thumbnail along the seam to pry the shell open and pop out the beans. The easiest way to sip the beans out of their skins is to blanch them for about 30 seconds and then pinch them to slide out the bean. Once they are free, use them in salads, saute them with other Spring vegetables. Our favorite — sauteed with scapes or other alliums and then pureed for soups or a spread.
What some chefs are doing with them right now: Fava special are everywhere right now. Some of our favorites:
At The Thomas
in Napa, Brad Farmerie and Jason Kupper's all day breakfast menu features a fricassee of fava beans with pancetta, preserved lemon, poached eggs, and grilled sourdough. At Kin Shop
in NYC, Harold Dieterle's Spring hot and sour soup has fava beans, Spring garlic, tapioca pearls & sorrel. At Gary Danko
in San Francisco they are serving an uber Spring dish of veal sweetbreads with morel mushrooms, peas, fava beans, ramps and pickled cherries. In Chicago, Piccolo Sogno
has had favas several ways — Fave e Pecorino Antipasti (Fava beans, pecorino cheese, arugula and olive oil), or in our Tortelli di Carciofi (Artichoke and buffalo ricotta stuffed pasta, fava beans, English peas and parsley.) TIME restaurant
in Philly featured a chorizo stuffed RI squid poached in red wine, served with smoked potatoes and fava beans. Le Rêve Patisserie & Café in Wauwatosa, WI is serving up Crabes du Printemps; Pan Seared Soft-shell Crab with Sautéed Corn, Fava Beans, Charred Fennel, Basil Tapenade Vinaigrette and Espelette Oil.
What great fava dishes are you seeing or making? Let us know in the comments.