A couple of years ago a spirited debate popped up on my Facebook page about the correct approach to preparing fava beans.
There was a heated exchange of opinions between the double-peelers and the non-double-peelers. The first group contended that only by removing the thin inner skin of the beans could you get the appropriately bright green color and fresh green flavor. The second said the best color and freshest flavor were in the eyes of the beholder and that the hint of bitter flavor added by that cooking with that inner skin was actually a mark of culinary sophistication.
Believe me, I wanted to believe the non-double-peelers. If there is a more tedious job than double-peeling fava beans, I can’t think of it. And if you think of one, I’ll thank you not to remind me, because it is going to be mind-numbing.
Unfortunately, after trying the two methods repeatedly, I remain firmly in the double-peeling camp. That means that for me a big bowl of fava beans is a once or twice a season treat and the rest of the time they are relegated to a garnish (peeling a cup or so of beans isn’t that big a deal – it’s when you start peeling enough to feed a family that it gets onerous).
There’s no fast way to prepare favas, which means that it’s a great chore to do when you have other folks in the kitchen to help. First, shuck the beans out of the pods and collect them in a work bowl. Cover the shucked beans with boiling water and let them sit until the water is cool enough to touch. To remove that white skin, nick the bottom of the bean with your thumbnail and give the bean a squeeze -- the insides will pop right out.
Then lather, rinse repeat, as the labels tell us. Whether you choose to follow the double-peelers or not, we'll leave to your conscience.
If you can pick your favas early enough -- when they're only three or four inches long -- they're pretty terrific simply coated with olive oil and tossed on the grill. Cook them until the pod is tender and you can eat the whole thing.
But even if you're going for the whole double-peeling process, you’re in for a treat. Favas are one of the great vegetables of spring. Here are a dozen recipes to get you started.
How to choose: Picking the best favas is all in the pod. It should be firm and crisp without any soft spots or wilting. Sometimes you’ll see black scarring on a fava pod -- that’s not a problem as long as the pod still feels firm. Also, the pods should be well filled-out so you can feel the individual beans.
How to store: Honestly, favas are pretty close to indestructible. You really have to work to make them go bad. Just keep them tightly wrapped in the refrigerator’s crisper drawer and they’ll last at least a week.