This year I decided to grow fava beans. Well, I actually planted them last year, in the Fall. They make an effective cover crop, enriching the soil with nitrogen. But, I really wanted to see if they would produce beans. Finally after many months of waiting, I'm harvesting big pods full of beans. They're very easy to spot on the plants and harvesting is a snap. The snails love to hide in them. But other than that, no pests at all.
And this has nothing to do with fava beans, but if you eat power or protein bars, you might want to read an article I wrote about them over at Fit Fare. Now back to fava beans.
If you've never cooked fava beans they can seem a little scary, because the directions tell you to shell and then peel them. It's the peeling part that seems to confuse people. It's actually very easy to do. After you shell them, you drop the beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes (or less, depends on the size of the bean) and then the skins will pop off revealing the bright green bean inside. If you eat them when they're small, you don't need to peel them.
Here's a bean that was blanched. You then squeeze the bean on the end and the dark green bean pops out. You're not really peeling the bean, you popping it out. On some beans, you may have to make a small slit with your fingernails at one end of the bean to let it pop out easier.
My beans were small enough that they really didn't need to be peeled. But, the bright green color of the beans inside the skin is very pretty, So, I peeled some of the beans. In the photo, you can see the ones I didn't peel are a pale color, almost white. The recipe is one that I've used for several years. It's my own very flexible recipe. Fresh fava beans are so delicious, you don't have to do much when you cook them. I didn't have as many beans as I would have liked. I had about two pounds unshelled, which produced a meager 1-1/4 cups of shelled beans. But, they were so wonderful. I served them with rice, and the only thing that would have made it better was some fresh sliced tomatoes.
Braised Fava Beans with Prosciutto
2 or more pounds of unshelled fava beans
about 1 ounce of prosciutto or bacon, minced
about 1/2 cup stock, or more, depending on how many beans you have
3 shallots or a small onion
1 clove minced garlic
1 medium carrot, diced
2 TB olive oil
1 TB butter
Cook the prosciutto over medium low heat until it's crispy. Set aside, but leave any oil in the pan to cook the fava beans.
Shell the fava beans and peel them if you want. If they are fairly big, you should peel them. But, it isn't necessary with beans smaller than your thumb fingernail. They do look prettier peeled, so that is a consideration. To peel--blanch the beans in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes. Take out a bean to test. It should pop out easily. Drain and refresh the beans with cold water, then peel the beans.
Saute the shallots, garlic and carrots in the olive oil, until the carrots are ready to your liking. Add the beans and the stock. The stock shouldn't cover the beans, it should come half way up on them. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Sample the beans to see if they are done. If they are freshly picked and small, they will cook very quickly. When the beans are done to your liking you can serve as is. However, I like to scoop the beans out with a slotted spoon and boil the stock down until it's syrupy. Then I add the butter, salt and pepper to taste and pour it over the beans. Sprinkle the crispy prosciutto bits on top. Garnish with parsley or shredded spring onions.