I have a bitter love for fava beans. I get so excited when I see them in the market for the first time in spring and always load up a huge bag to take home. Then I usually stare at them for a couple of days while I try to figure out a time I can sit down for more than 20 minutes to go through the dreaded task of peeling the things. The art of slow living just doesn’t exist in my home at the moment. BUT this spring my 4 year old has taken on the duty as sous chef and shucking beans has become her specialty. Now we can up our fava intake.
If you can find the pods when they are finger length snatch them up because they are amazing eaten whole. Toss them with olive oil and grill until tender then sprinkle with a nice flake salt, squeeze of lemon and some crushed red pepper. Once larger than that the pods are too tough and they must be shucked. The beans inside then need to be peeled of their paper thin outer shells. A lot of people don’t think this process is worth the end result. I’m just obsessed with the sweet, earthy, hearty, protein packed little green gems.
One of my favorites and a classic way to eat fava beans is on a crostini of burrata cheese with lemon, olive oil and basil. They also go amazingly with ham. On a warm spring day, a bit of jamón serrano, manchego and a pile of favas dressed in sherry vinegar, good quality extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs is a perfect light meal. You could also use prosciutto and pecorino just don’t forget the really good loaf of bread and bottle of rosé. It’s simple perfection.
fava bean & serrano ham salad
- 3lbs fava bean pods
- 1/2lb good quality Jamón Serrano, sliced medium-thin
- 4 oz manchego cheese
- 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mint leaves, roughly torn
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- malden sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
- loaf of crusty sourdough bread
Shuck the beans by tearing the tip off and pulling the outer string down then sliding your finger inside to release the beans. The same way you would for shucking peas. You should end up with about 1 1/2 cups of beans. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook fava beans for 2 minutes. Drain and put them in an ice bath to chill. Drain again and then peel off the outer shells by tearing a hole in them with your fingernail and squeezing the beans out. Put the beans in a bowl and toss with the vinegar, olive oil, mint and salt & pepper. Arrange ham on a platter and top with the beans. Shave the manchego cheese with a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler to get thin slices or ribbons. Serve the salad topped with the cheese and a fresh loaf of crusty bread to tear into.