Every year, fava beans’ fast and fleeting season gets us excited when we first see them at the farmer’s market. And we buy a ton. And then we get them home and remember why we only cooked them once last year: A bag the size of an over-inflated basketball takes about and 103 minutes to prep. First you peel them, then you shell them, then you blanch them, then you peel the beans again. And THEN you get to start cooking.
With the help of 4 year old Desmond as prep cook, this time it took only about 102 minutes to prep the fava beans. After which he chewed one for two bites and promptly spit it out. 7 year old Violet on the other hand loved the bruschetta we made. We served it with fresh calamari simmered in marinara. The beans, fresh and in season, are almost bacony in flavor and creamy like few other fresh beans. Desmond and I now appreciate the unsung labors of prep cooks in every seasonally-driven restaurant. Or at least I do. He now, I hope, appreciates the efforts of the seasonally-driven gastroparent who cooks.
Fresh Fava Bean Prep
Buy a couple of pounds of fresh fava bean pods. If there’s no scale, max out the vegetable bag until it can take no more favas. You’re only doing this once this year, so remember to make the meal worth it. You’ll be surprised by how few beans you get from this bag.
Grab the stem of a pod and unzip it. Half the time this works.
Split the pod down the seam with your thumb or finger and push or pull out the beans
After about 48 minutes of this, you’ll have about 33 beans. Keep going. You’ll get it done. The kids like doing this. For about 9 minutes.
Blanch the beans in salted water for several minutes, or until tender. To test, pop the bean outside of its now easy-to-remove second layer of protection and eat the bean, discarding the weird little membrane on the outside. You want the bright green beans within just the creamy side of al dente, but not cooked until they’ve lost their vibrant bright color. If they’re army green, you’ve taken them too far.
Rinse the cooked beans in a colander under cold running water, to both stop the cooking and cool for peeling.
Now, 98 minutes later, you’re ready to cook.
Minty Fava Bean and Ricotta Bruschetta with Prosciutto
It takes a long time to prep the fresh favas, but it’s worth it at least once a year. The creamy sweetness of the ricotta plays into and against the creamy sweet earthiness of fresh favas. The prosciutto amplifies in inherent savoriness of the beans. Toasted rustic bread is crunchy counterpoint to it all.
2 cups freshly cooked fava beans
1/4 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
a pinch of salt
a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper or a small pinch of red pepper flakes
a jot of olive oil
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
toasted rustic bread, cut into nice sized single serving pieces
1 slice of prosciutto, roughly chopped
In a medium bowl, smash the fava beans with the side of a fork or a potato masher, until crushed a bit, but not too crushed. Mix in mint, salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice.
Meanwhile, toast bread. Spread bread with ricotta. Top with fava bean mixture, and prosciutto and serve.