Fava beans are one of those ingredients cooks love and hate in roughly equal proportions. We love them, of course, because they are delicious. There's nothing like that bright flash of green flavor you get from a fresh fava. But we hate to have to prepare them -- first you have to shuck them, then peel them again before you actually cook them. And you'd better allow a pound of beans for every eater.
If favas weren't so delicious, they'd probably be extinct by now.
But poach the cleaned beans in cream with a little bacon, or simply braise them briefly with white wine and fresh herbs and you've got one of the season's best side dishes -- perfect to serve along with ham or lamb.
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.
How to prepare: There's no fast way to prepare favas. It's not hard, but it is tedious. 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 them with boiling water and let them sit until the water is cool enough to touch. To remove that thick white skin, nick the bottom of the bean with your thumbnail and then give the bean a squeeze and the insides will pop right out.