Fava beans have many other names including broad bean, faba bean, english bean, and horse bean. They are native to the Mediterranean and popular in cooking throughout the world. Young, fresh fava beans can be eaten raw or the pods prepared like green beans. Older, larger beans should be shelled, cooked (in boiling water for a minute or two), and if larger than a thumbnail also skinned. You can lightly salt cooked favas and eat them warm or add them to a myriad of dishes such as pasta sauces, soups, or salads.
Fresh, unshelled beans can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. For long term storage shell, blanch and skin fava beans and store in plastic containers in the freezer.
Fava Bean Crostini
You can also serve the puree as a gorgeous green dip for crackers and breads. (from Food and Wine magazine, June 2001)
- 3 1/2 pounds fresh fava beans, shelled (4 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped thyme
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Twenty-four 1/2-inch-thick slices of Italian bread
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat the broiler. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the beans and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the beans and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain, then peel and discard the tough outer skins.
In a food processor, puree the beans with the garlic, thyme, lemon juice and lemon zest. With the machine on, add 3/4 cup of the olive oil in a thin stream and process until smooth. Scrape the fava bean puree into a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Brush the bread slices on both sides with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Arrange the slices on a baking sheet and broil about 4 inches from the heat for 1 minute per side, or until golden and crisp.
Spread the toasts with the fava bean puree and arrange the crostini on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and serve with lemon wedges.
MAKE AHEAD The puree can be refrigerated for 2 days. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.