During my childhood, my mom cooked dinner nearly every night of the week. She was the queen of carefully balanced, health-conscious meals. There was always a protein, a green vegetable and a whole grain or starch (like brown rice or sweet potatoes).
At the time, my sister and I didn't fully appreciate these thoughtful meals. Instead, we lived for those rare nights when our mother announced that the kitchen was closed. She'd send us out with our dad for fast food, while she stayed home to luxuriate in an empty house.
While we stuffed our faces with French fries (a very rare treat), she'd make her signature "I'm cooking for myself" meal. It consisted of a packet of frozen broad beans (they are favas by another name), just warmed and tossed with a garlicky vinaigrette, and a scoop of cottage cheese on the side.
It wasn't until I was in college that I suddenly understood the appeal of my mom's marinated fava bean salad. Fava beans are sweet, tender and pleasantly starchy. When they're coated with a slick of olive oil, vinegar and garlic bits, the contrast between the sharp dressing and the mild greenness of the beans is really wonderful.
During fava bean season, I try to make it at least once or twice with the fresh beans. The rest of the year, I happily settle for the same frozen ones my mom always ate. It's good served as part of a spread of pickles and marinated salads, or just on its own.
Before You Get Started
The one problem with fresh fava beans is that they're something of a pain to prep. You have to remove them from the bean pods, place them in boiling water and then squeeze the edible interior out of its mealy jacket. Enlist friends to help if you're making a goodly amount.
Once you've finished shelling them for the second time, they're ready to eat. The quick blanch is really all the cooking they need.
I like to estimate a pound of fresh fava beans per person. With a pound, the finished edible yield will be right around 1/2 cup.
This technique works nicely for other fresh beans like lima beans or fresh chickpeas.
About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first book, also called Food in Jars, will be published by Running Press in May 2012.