If fava beans are in the market, you know it’s spring, or spring somewhere nearby. Fresh fava beans are so good, though, they are worth the effort.
I usually try to enlist help and I always wish I had a houseful of kids or a couple of resident grandmothers… peeling favas makes a nice multigenerational chore. For this salad, the fava beans are removed from the pods, cooked briefly, peeled, and combined with thinly sliced raw fennel (or you could use raw artichokes or asparagus).
- 8-10 pounds fresh young fava beans in the pod (10 pounds will yield about 6 cups beans)
- 3-4 fennel bulbs, about 2 pounds
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly slivered
- Sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Fruity olive oil
- 1 bunch mint
- 1 lemon
- 12 slices cured ham, such as jamón serrano or prosciutto
- Arugula leaves (optional)
Shuck the fava beans from their pods. To remove their skins, blanch the beans in boiling water for 10 seconds, then cool in a large basin of ice water. Pop out the beans, piercing the gray-green skin with your thumbnail to free the bright green, barely cooked bean. Cover the favas with a damp towel.
Trim and wash the fennel.
When you are ready to make the salad, slice the fennel into thin shreds (a mandoline works well for this) and put them in a bowl. Add the fava beans, scallions, and a good sprinkling of sea salt. Drizzle generously with fruity olive oil to coat. Coarsely chop the mint leaves and add them, then squeeze the juice of half the lemon over the salad. Toss well with your hands, then taste and correct with salt, oil, and/or lemon juice.
Pile the salad onto a large platter, add a few grinds of black pepper, and surround with thin slices of mountain ham, such as jamón serrano or prosciutto. Or julienne or tear the ham into strips and scatter over the salad. Garnish with a few arugula leaves if you like, and serve immediately.
Fava bean salad with mint, burrata and pistachios
One thing I’ve learned for certain since I put vegetable beds in our frontyard is that, as a gardener, I’m a pretty good cook.
My agricultural shortcomings are not something I’m proud of. I start every growing season with the best of intentions, laying out well-ordered plots that seem almost guaranteed to turn into things of beauty. But then life intervenes, weeks pass and somehow the whole operation has gotten away from me.
What starts with fantasies of my photo in Sunset magazine winds up with a reality that warrants my picture in the post office — with the warning “Wanted: For plant murder.”
The most recent example: This winter I planted fava beans because they’re the one vegetable I’ve been able to grow reliably (even I can’t kill a fava). But because the favas take a long time to mature, I thought I’d over-sow some radishes — they pop up so quickly that they’d be long harvested by the time the favas came on.
Smart idea, right? Well, fast-forward a couple of months and somehow a few of those radishes never did get picked (hey, I was busy). They had bolted and now were sending up head-high shoots of flowers from somewhere hidden deep in the fava jungle.
Time to go in and rip them all out. But when I went to do that, I noticed that some of the branches were full of these tiny needle-shaped pods: radish seed pods. I picked one and tasted it. It was crisp and practically popped in my mouth. Think of a radish’s sweet taste but with only a trace of the heat. It was kind of like a cross between a radish and a sugar snap pea.
I started getting ideas. I was bringing a salad to a friend’s potluck that evening — a simple thing, mixed lettuces and quartered hard-boiled eggs — so I tossed in a handful of pods along with some of the radish flowers and blooms from other plants that had bolted.
The salad was delicious — and far prettier than my garden could ever hope to be.
I did get some of those fava beans too, and after much shucking and peeling, simmered them briefly with garlic and mint and then served them with burrata as another salad. That too was good. The beans were tender and full of that sweet, flash-of-green spring flavor for which we love favas so much.
But then my gardening ability reared its ugly head once again.
When I tried to make something similar a couple of weeks later, the favas I picked had quite clearly been ignored for too long. They were so full of starch my lovely light simmer had turned into a thick, stodgy porridge.
It tasted good, but the texture was pasty and floury. And I had only a half-hour before guests arrived. Desperate, I beat in a generous quarter cup of really good olive oil (reasoning that there’s nothing that really good olive oil can’t fix). Between the unctuousness of the fat and the slight bitterness of the oil, this rough purée was a knockout.
Someday, maybe, I’ll get to the point where my vegetable gardening is good enough that I won’t need to pull these kinds of dishes out of my hat. But until then, I guess, I’ll just stay in my kitchen as much as possible. That’s where I seem to do the least damage.
Minted Fava Bean Salad
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Fava beans are a favorite in Spanish cuisine. Here, they’re tossed into a salad that pairs well with hearty main dishes. Feel free to substitute lima beans.
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
- 3 cups fresh or frozen shelled fava beans
- 1/2 head iceberg lettuce or 1 head romaine lettuce, cut into thin strips (4 cups)
- 1/2 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips
1. Whisk together lemon juice, oil, and garlic in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Set aside.
2. Cook shelled fava beans 3 minutes, or cook frozen fava beans according to package directions. Drain rinse under cold water.
3. Toss together cooled fava beans, lettuce, and mint in large bowl. Add lemon dressing, and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Our Best Fava Bean Recipes and How-Tos
Spring is just the start of fava bean season. You&aposll find those long, shiny green pods (mostly in farmers&apos markets) starting in early spring and on through summer and early fall. Fava beans (sometimes called "broad beans") take a little more effort to prepare than other fresh produce, but they&aposre an excellent source of lean protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Combine that with a delightfully nutty flavor, and favas might just become your favs.
What are Fava Beans?
An ancient member of the pea family, favas have been around for over 5000 years. According to The Visual Food Encyclopedia, they were actually used by the Greeks as ballots in voting.
Selecting and Storing Fava Beans
Choose firm pods that are bumpy along the entire length the smaller the bumps, the younger the beans. Store unprepared fava beans in sealed plastic in your refrigerator for up to 5-7 days.
How to Prepare Fava Beans
Nowadays, fava beans have a reputation for being notoriously time consuming to prepare. I&aposve spoken to farmers who tell me they eat them only in restaurants. In fact, they do require more work than just steaming green beans. And here&aposs why: The beans need to be removed from the cushiony, cotton-like lining of the pod which, in most cases, is thrown away. So a big pile of bean pods yields a small pile of beans.
Although the skin on the beans is edible, many cooks prefer to blanch them and squeeze the beans out of the skin. Skins of older, larger beans can be slightly bitter. But I think it&aposs usually an aesthetic decision--skinned beans are just plain gorgeous. Bright, vibrant green beans go so well in risotto, summer salads, or just on their own with a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette, a bit of lemon zest, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Other excellent flavor pairings are Fontina cheese, cream, and mint.
You&aposll probably need to buy twice as many as you think you need. A half pound of beans in the pod will yield just about a half cup of beans.
How to Blanch Fava Beans
First place the shelled beans in a pot of boiling water. Depending on their size, they need only 3 to 5 minutes in the water to blanch them. Remove the beans with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl of ice water.
Pinch the round end of the bean and squeeze the bean out of the skin.
Here&aposs an easy 4-ingredient salad --just combine sliced radishes, sliced skinny asparagus, fava beans, and the lemon vinaigrette of your choice.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups unsalted chicken stock
- ½ cup hard red spring wheat berries, such as Bob's Red Mill® brand
- 3 pounds fresh fava beans in pods or 1 1/2 cups frozen sweet soybeans (edamame) (see Tip)
- 4 cups water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces fresh asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- ¼ cup snipped fresh mint
In a medium saucepan heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic cook 5 to 7 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Add stock and wheat berries. Bring to boiling reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 1 hour or until wheat berries are tender. Drain and cool.
Meanwhile, if using fresh fava beans, remove beans from pods. In a medium saucepan bring the water and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt to boiling. Add shelled beans boil 30 seconds to loosen outer skins. Using a slotted spoon, immediately transfer beans to ice water to cool, reserving boiling salted water in saucepan. Drain beans peel off and discard outer skins. (If using edamame, cook in the boiling salted water according to package directions and cool in ice water.)
Add asparagus to the reserved boiling salted water. Boil 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender drain and cool.
For dressing, whisk together the red wine vinegar, mustard and pepper and the remaining 4 teaspoons oil and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
To serve, combine wheat berry mixture, fava beans, asparagus, blueberries and mint. Drizzle with dressing toss to coat. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 24 hours.
Tip: To save prep time, look for an 8.8-ounce package steamed fava beans, such as Melissa's(R) brand. They're already shelled, peeled and ready to eat.
Fresh Fava Beans with Feta and Mint
Fava beans, broad beans, Vicia faba, whatever you prefer to call them… they’ve begun to show up at my local Italian greengrocer. There was a time when I was committed to growing both peas and fava beans during the spring season, but once I moved into an Italian neighbourhood I decided there was little point in pushing to make both happen in a small space and so these days I grow loads of peas and buy favas.
But don’t listen to me. There is plenty of reason to grow your own favas, namely the deliciously, tender stems and leaves that you can’t buy anywhere. I grow peas for the same reason and for now they have won my favour until such a time that I have the space to accommodate both.
But I digress. The first favas have made their appearance and I immediately snapped up a pound in order to test their quality. We ate them for dinner the other night in a simple spelt pasta dish tossed together with shallots, good quality bacon (from our favourite butcher Sanagan’s) olive oil, and Parmesan cheese.
Having deemed them to be good, I went back for more so I could make a dish that has become a bit of a seasonal tradition in our house: fava beans with feta and mint. This is a super easy dish to make. So easy in fact, that I had never bothered to commit it to paper until now. Instead, I wing it, adding and tasting the mix until it looks and tastes right. Sometimes I add Balsamic vinegar for acidity, and sometimes I use lemon juice. If you use lemon juice, I suggest adding about a tablespoon or so. I don’t put garlic in ours, but you might prefer the added bite.
The only “difficult” part of this recipe is in preparing the beans. Like most large legumes, favas need to be “shucked” or shorn of their outer pod. Larger, mature beans have a skin or membrane that can be tough and difficult to chew. I have prepared favas without making the extra effort to remove this tough skin, but be advised that it isn’t particularly palatable. The good news is that removing this skin is fairly simple work as long as the beans are blanched or cooked first.
RECIPE: Fresh Fava Beans with Feta and Mint
Shuck the beans, separating them from their pods.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the shucked beans until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Peel the tough outer skin from any beans that are bigger than your thumb. Small beans have a thin outer skin that should be tender enough to eat.
I used ‘Curly’ mint because that is the variety that is most abundant in my garden right now.
In a bowl, combine the peeled beans and the remaining ingredients. Store in the fridge until you are ready to eat.
Recipe: Orzo with Fava Beans and Mint
Fava beans are, in our opinion, one of the very best things about spring. So, when we set out to follow a Martha Stewart recipe for orzo with peas but couldn’t find English peas at the farmers’ market, we had no regrets having to substitute with fava beans.
It’s an uncomplicated recipe, although the addition of favas does add quite a bit of extra prep time devoted to shelling the beans, as well as a slightly longer cooking time. Even though we have been known to curse the beans for giving us repetitive motion injuries while shelling them, in the end it’s always worth it to taste their buttery, green flavor.
Orzo, the delicate grain-shaped pasta, is quick to cook, and the rest of the recipe consists of sautéeing shallots, lemon zest, and the peas or beans in a bit of butter. Throw in some fresh chopped mint, and maybe an extra squeeze of lemon juice, and you have the perfect spring side dish.
• Original recipe: Orzo with Mint and Peas, from Martha Stewart
Ingredient of the Week: Fava Beans // Spanish Fava Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Jamón
During the time I spent in Lisbon over the past year, there was a noted dearth of fresh vegetables in my diet. The food in Lisbon is wonderful, but it’s not particularly fresh. One night I stumbled upon a tapas restaurant that served a fava bean salad and it quickly became my go-to vegetable dish when I was craving something light. It was a cold, simple salad of favas, tomatoes, olive oil and herbs. I couldn’t tell you exactly what was in it, but it hit the spot.
I tried to recreate this salad for this week… and totally missed the mark. But, what I did make turned out wonderful. Nothing like that particular tapas dish, but delicious nonetheless. It has a lot of Spanish flavors – smoked paprika, jamón, tomatoes – that all meld together in a warm, homey dish. It ended up being my favorite of all the fava dishes I’ve made for this week, a total surprise hit. Try it with a few slices of crusty bread or a bowl of pasta for a comforting spring dinner.
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More Fava Bean Recipes…
Avocado Toast with Fava Beans and Pecorino
Fava Bean Soup with Mascarpone, Mint, and Pancetta
Fava Bean and Mascarpone Ravioli with Truffle Butter Sauce
Ham and Bean Pasta Salad
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise could use Miracle Whip
- 3 teaspoons fresh basil chopped (could use 1 teaspoon dried)
- 3 teaspoons fresh parsley chopped (could use 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
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Preheat oven to 350°. Toast pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant but not browned, 5–8 minutes. Let cool.
Cook fava beans in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a colander set in a bowl of ice water. Drain, remove skins, and transfer beans to a small bowl.
Combine shallot and vinegar in another small bowl season with salt and pepper and set aside at least 10 minutes. Whisk oil into shallot mixture season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Combine beans, asparagus, watercress, mint, and tarragon in a large bowl add vinaigrette and pistachios and toss to combine. Transfer to a serving platter and top with chive blossoms, if using.
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