Article and Photos by Carrie Cowan
I know it’s officially summer in Portland when the fava beans arrive in the farmer’s market. Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are grown all over the world. In Italy ‘fave’ are served raw with a sharp cheese, or mashed into a pesto. They have a relatively short season in our area, usually lasting about 3 weeks beginning in early July. Since the season goes by in a flash, and you almost never see them in the grocery store, I always feel a certain responsibility to buy some and take them home. Favas are high in amino acids, fiber, and folate. The good news is they are incredibly bright, nutty and delicious. They have a taste that is distinctive and not really comparable to other beans. If green had a flavor it would be fava beans. If you’ve never prepared fava beans before, there are few things you need to know. First, the bean pod will be discarded, so you need to buy about 1 ½ -2 pounds of beans to yield 1-1 ½ cups of shelled beans. Second, to get that peak-of-summer flavor they need to be shelled and used within a day or two of purchase. Like fresh peas, they turn starchy if left in the fridge too long. Store them in a cool place outside of the fridge if possible, or better yet- use them the day you buy them! Here’s my favorite way to prepare these versatile beans.
Fava Beans with Fresh Ricotta and Mint
- 2 lbs. fresh fava bean pods (yields about 1 1/2 C. prepared beans)
- salted, boiling water
- 1 T. fresh mint, chopped
- zest of 1 lemon plus a squeeze of lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- 1 t. olive oil
- 1/2 C. fresh ricotta
- 1 sliced French baguette
First remove the beans from the outer pod by splitting the pods open with your fingers. Inside the pods you’ll find 4-5 beans. The beans have a coating on them that also needs to be removed. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the beans in and boil for 1 minute only. Have a bowl of cold water ready. When one minute is up, quickly remove the beans from the boiling water with a strainer and drop them into the cold water to stop the cooking. Drain. Now each bean covering needs to be removed. I do this by opening one end with my fingernail and then squeezing the bean out. Once you get the
hang of it this step goes quickly. Refrigerate the beans until ready to use. The pods and bean coverings can be discarded. Combine the beans with the mint, lemon zest, salt and pepper, and olive oil. Use a fork to mash some of the beans very slightly. Spread the ricotta on some baguette
slices, top with the fava bean mixture and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Serve immediately.