Fava beans otherwise known as broad beans, faba bean, or field beans are native to North Africa and South Asia; but, they do grow very well in European countries as well as the states. It is believed that the Fava became part of the Mediterranean diet around 6000 BC or earlier. The Fava is versatile and can be fried as a snack, added to stews, or even eaten with breakfast, the choices are really unlimited, just use your imagination. As soon as I notice them in the markets I make this recipe for Fava Bean and Fennel Salad as often as I can.
Lenny loves fava beans; they are right up there with the “runny egg”. We usually eat them in one of his favorite Portuguese dishes, as a salad with shaved parmesan or as an addition to soups or stews. We are lucky that there is a farmer in Half Moon Bay who grows them, most of the spring and into summer. We recently picked up 5 pounds of them, along with some fresh baby fennel to make a late springtime salad. I love the combination of mint with peas so I decided to make a light dressing using this as part of the base – it went really well with the favas as well as the fennel. The fennel gave the dish a nice refreshing flavor.
The drawback of fava beans is that you do need to peel them twice. The first peel is rather simple as you will merely need to shuck them from their outer pod. You will be left with a bean inside a slightly tougher membrane. I have found that the easiest way to get to the sweet little fava is by gently boiling them in water for about 3 – 5 minutes and then gently popping them out of this tough outer skin. It really is not that difficult just time-consuming. Worth it, in our opinion!
This recipe is a wonderful side dish for a nice piece of firm white fish or chicken.
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Fava Bean & Fennel Salad
5 pounds fava beans, see instructions above for how to prepare
2 small fennel, leafy tops removed. sliced thinly
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
3 tablespoons mint, minced
sea salt, to taste
fresh cracked pepper, to taste
Prepare the fava beans.
In a jar, shake together the olive oil, vinegar, and mint.
Lightly toss the favas with the fennel and the dressing.
Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.