As a rule, it’s best not to take advice from a serial killer. But follow Hannibal Lecter’s lead (on this point only) and incorporate fava beans into your spring dishes. Trust me, they couldn’t be farther from creepy.
Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are one of the oldest cultivated foods, dating back to 6000 BC. I have a gorgeous fava bean plant growing in my garden right now. (Check out the photo to the right.)
A staple in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes, fava beans have a buttery texture and a light nutty flavor that works beautifully alone, tossed with other spring vegetables like morels and peas, or added to soups and salads. And they’re good for you: one cup of fava beans packs 12.9 grams of protein and serves up a good dose of iron and fiber as well.
Fava beans grow in long pods, which are shelled to get to the large, round green legume inside. When shopping for fava beans, choose pods that are firm and bright green and aren’t bulging with beans, a sign that the fava beans are older.
When fava beans are super young, you can actually eat the whole pod. But as they age, you’ll need to shell them. Think of it as shelling peas. Snap one end and gently split the pod to release the beans inside. They will look smooth and bright green and appetizing, though this outer skin isn’t actually edible. The easiest way to remove the skin is to quickly blanch the beans in salted boiling water for 1-2 minutes. The skin will turn whitish-gray in color. Strain and peel the cooled beans and voila! Your fava beans are ready to eat.
One of the first dishes I’m going to make with my harvest of favas is Grilled Scallops with Fava Beans and Roasted Tomatoes.