Tuesday, October 12, 2010

fava beans

Fresh fava beans are, thankfully, just as good as you think to yourself that they'd better be, after spending an hour shelling them to produce barely a bowl's worth.

Fava beans

Favas are trickier to shell than most beans: in addition to the pod, each bean has a little jacket, which needs to be individually peeled off.  Blanching the beans, once removed from the pod, can help, but it's still time consuming and it still has to be done individually.  Whole fava bean pods can be grilled, but a) this is much better when they're young (not in October, and possibly not when they're at the market at all, depending on your vendor), and b) it's a whole different taste.

Also "whole different tastes" are canned or dried favas.  (I don't know if most people know this or not, but canned beans usually originate as dried beans, not fresh: the process of canning them both cooks and rehydrates them.)  I've never warmed up to dried or canned fava beans, maybe because fresh was how I first had them.  I've tried; and since we had several Middle Eastern groceries and restaurants in Indiana, I've certainly been exposed to Middle Eastern food and am a big fan of it ... just not ful, the quintessential Middle Eastern fava bean dish, generally (always? I'm not an authority here) made with dried beans.

But fresh favas ... oh man are they good.  They only need a couple minutes of cooking, even the larger tougher beans.  They're the ideal bean for a bean dip, even though you sacrifice a lot of the aesthetic appeal there - they're also perfect for room-temperature bean salads of beans dressed while warm with oil and lemon juice and seasonings, and then allowed to cool to room temp.  They have an excellent affinity for duck, goose, foie gras, truffles, thyme, and sharp cheeses, though perhaps not all at once.  (Sumac, thyme, and sesame seeds are one version of the Middle Eastern za'atar spice mix, which also goes well with favas, particularly with a little olive oil.)

We had the favas shown above in a sandwich with some chopped leftover leg of lamb; the favas above are dressed with Pecorino Romano, sesame seeds, and smoked olive oil (which sort of brought everything together), and were mixed with the lamb before being spooned into hot-from-the-oven baguettes.

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