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It's spring! Do yourself a fava

7 Recipes
Baby artichoke and pea shoot salad with favas and pecorino Romano.
(Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)

Seven ways to use fava beans.

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Fresh fava beans (a.k.a. broad beans) are not front and center in American cuisine, but they sure do deserve a spotlight. Legumes are nutritional powerhouses for those who eat the beans and for the soil they fertilize as they grow and then decompose. Frequently eaten in cuisines of the Middle East, Europe, South America and Africa, fava beans are high in protein and fiber and rich in antioxidants. Fresh favas have a refreshing, bright earthy flavor and a creamy, buttery texture (moreso than their dried counterparts). They are delicious, nutritious and can be used in a multitude of preparations.

You can make the fresh fava bean the star of the dish with a fava bean purée (fresh fava beans are much creamier than canned) or in this vegetarian spin on shrimp scampi. Favas play nicely with others, too, pairing particularly well with other young spring vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus and peas. Blanched in a salad, sauteed in a spring vegetable medley or lightly braised in a ragout they are equally delicious. Favas lend vibrance and texture to a stewy preparation like shakshouka. A creamy, tangy smash hits the textural midpoint between a puree and leaving the beans whole.

To the uninitiated, any of these recipes will be a good introduction to working with fresh fava beans as each describes how to shuck and peel the beans. One word of caution: People who are G6PD deficient should avoid favas, fresh or dried.

For a rundown of how different cuisines embrace this versatile legume, check out Sylvia Thompson’s timeless ode to favas.

Baby artichoke, pea shoot and fava bean salad

Baby artichokes are sliced very thin and tossed with fava beans and pea shoots and garnished with pecorino Romano cheese in a traditional Italian salad.
Time 30 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Fava Bean Scampi

Fava beans combine with lemon, chile flakes and wine for a vegetarian spin on scampi pasta.
Time 15 minutes
Yields Serves 4.

Smashed Fava Beans with 'Red in Snow' Pickled Mustard Greens

This creamy mix of smashed fava beans laced with savory pickled greens takes less than 10 minutes to cook if you buy pickled mustard greens from a Chinese market.
Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 12 as one of many dishes

Fava bean purée

A food mill makes shorter work of this fava bean purée that I love to make in the spring when favas are in season.
Time 45 minutes
Yields Makes about 1 ½ cups

Spring sauté

Everything in this dish is green, albeit of different hues. The shapes and forms vary, including the complicated artichoke, the layers of asparagus tips and the hidden geometry of peas.
Time 1 hour
Yields Makes 4 to 6 cups of mixed vegetables

Shakshouka

Chef Alon Shaya's take on this quintessential Israeli breakfast includes Jerusalem artichokes and fava beans, which give it an extra earthiness.
Time 1 hour
Yields Serves 4 to 6

Mixed spring vegetable ragout

Fava beans, colorful baby carrots, baby turnips, baby fennel, sweet young peas, pencil-thin asparagus and slim young parsnips all take well to this blanch-and-sautee technique.
Time 50 minutes
Yields Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 to 8 as a side dish