Fava Beans

Whenever I say “fava beans”, my husband makes a rapid lip-smacking noise and says, “I ate his liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti,” quoting Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs. So I try not to say “fava beans” too often.

I had never prepared fava beans until a few years ago. My friend Ellen brought a big bagful over to my Park Slope apartment. I was skeptical because fava beans look suspiciously like extra large lima beans and I’m not crazy about extra large lima beans. I don’t mind young lima beans but the mature ones are a bit too mealy and mushy for me. Fava beans, on the other hand, are slightly sweet, creamy with a hit of nuttiness.

Fava beans are a little like one of those Russian nesting dolls. They have a husky pod, then a bean, then the real jewel is the tiny chartreuse bean inside the larger bean. While you can eat young fava beans after the first shelling, it is really worth the extra step to get to the good stuff.

First remove the outer pod. Then immerse the giant beans in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Next, plunge them into an ice water bath. The tough light green part should then easily separate from the smaller bean.

For a quick, delicious spread, mash them with a fork, add a little garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and spread on crostini or toast points. Delicious!