Kitchen Witch - Fava on My Mind

In the vegetable world, spring means the arrival of two high-maintenance divas: the artichoke and the fava bean.

At first glance, the artichoke is a real looker. But perhaps like a beauty contest queen, she makes it difficult for admirers to get closer, with her weaponry of prickly thorns studded all over her torso. Courageous cooks in pursuit of the artichoke’s heart must not only wear gloves but then work doggedly, pulling at leaves and cutting away at her exterior, only to be faced with a bunch of fuzz that may as well be a chastity belt.

I get tired just thinking about her.

The fava bean, on the other hand, is a much nicer dinner date. She comes dressed in a gorgeous overcoat of a pod, all eight to 12 inches of her. Simply twist the pod and pop goes a chorus line of kidney-shaped beans with a creamy, pale-green outer skin, which can be peeled or left alone. The fava is so easygoing she can be eaten raw, with a little bit of salt - just as the frisky Italians do.

Skin left on, the beans taste kind of waxy and bland. Nicked with a fingernail, the skin reveals a brighter green nugget that offers a nuttier, herbier flavor.

Make it easier on yourself and blanch a bunch o’ beans in salted water, for about one minute. Drain and place in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking. Then see how easy it is to slip off those outer skins, which look like pruney fingertips after a long soak in the tub. Blanching brings out the chlorophyll in green vegetables, so those favas transform into a stunning shade of your neighbor’s manicured lawn.

Since one pound of pods yields only about one cup of liberated beans, you have prep work cut out for you. But there are no thorns, no fuzz and the podding can be done in front of the television.

Easy Fava Bean Snack:

Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil, with the juice of 1/2 lemon and a teaspoon or two of freshly grated parmigiano into a small bowl. Salt to taste. Add 1 cup of blanched, peeled fava beans and mix with your impromptu vinaigrette or dip those beans into the dressing, with a little cocktail fork. Beans also go great on top of toast points or with a bunch of mixed greens.

Culinary questions? Reach CL’s Kitchen Witch at