Fava beans are one of the hardest beans to crack, so to speak. For starters, they’re not beans at all. They’re actually a member of the pea family. They’re fat and hard to open, and if you don’t know what to do with them, completely confusing. We’d skip right over them at the market in favor of a more straightforward bean, that is, if they didn’t taste so good.
What’s more, they’re only available one month a year and that time is right about now. July is prime fava bean season, so next time you’re at the greenmarket, look for these fat beans that look a lot like fat pea pods. Sometimes they aren’t even called fava beans. You’ll also hear them referred to as broad beans, horse beans, tic beans, bell beans and field beans. When they’re cooked (and they should be), they take on a delicate flavor and creamy texture. Ever had the fresh tofu poached in soymilk with broad bean paste at Mission Chinese Food? Fava beans in disguise.
The trick with fava beans is to peel them. Not once, but twice. We like to speed up the peeling process with the help of a little boiling water. Once you get the seeds out of the pod, you can pry the seeds out of their casing by boiling them in water for one to two minutes. Sounds like a lot of work right? Well, sometimes a little work brings amazing flavors to your dishes.
Since fava beans aren’t the easiest bean to work with, we have a lot of respect for restaurants that choose to feature them in their dishes. Casa la Femme purees their fava beans into a traditional Egyptian mezze called Fuul Medames, while Daniel enhances black cod with a fava bean fricassee. In the Bronx, Roberto’s is serving Tubettini con Polipo e Fava, pasta sauteed with grilled octopus and fava beans. But you can come up with your own, fava bean-inspired dish at home. Look for fava beans at farmers markets throughout the city, like Union Square Farmer’s Market. So go crazy and try a pea that’s a little outside the box!
Mission Chinese Food
Address: 154 Orchard St. btwn Rivington & Stanton Sts.
Casa La Femme
140 Charles St. btwn Greenwich & Washington Sts.
Address: 60 East 65th Street btwn Park & Madison Aves.
Address: 603 Crescent Ave.
Union Square Farmer’s Market
North and West sides of Union Square Park
Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday
8:00 AM – 6:00 PM