I know what you’re thinking. Something about a nice Chianti, maybe? That scene in Silence of the Lambs may have ruined fava beans for some, but can we please call them broad beans like the rest of the world and move on? They’re one of springtime’s best treats and I for one won’t let a fictional sociopath stand in my way.
A Mediterranean staple, favas has a fresh, creamy quality, nothing at all like the chalky, starchy lima beans of my early memory. (I’d apologize to my mother here, but she never liked those hateful lima beans, either.) They play nicely with other spring veggies like English peas or asparagus (tossed into a salad or pasta, perhaps) but my favorite preparation is blitzing them into a lush purée with ricotta and Pecorino and a little bit of mint and lemon zest. The mixture takes on a cheerful shade of celadon green and a nutty, sunshiny-bright flavor that sings springtime.
Sings it in a mezzo-soprano. Singgggs.
I use the purée as a dip for crudité, or smudged and baked on crostini for appetizers or a light lunch. In a larger portion, favas are a satisfying vegetarian main and a healthy source of protein: they have nearly 10 grams per quarter cup, with a heap of iron and fiber to boot. The hardy legume is so nutritious, in fact, that a large crop kept most of the Sicilian population alive during a rough stretch of drought in the Middle Ages. (Fun fact: believers still trust that a lucky fava bean in your pocket will ensure that one’s earthly needs are always met.)
The beans do take a little bit of prep, but it’s one of those meditative, calming sorts of kitchen tasks. The favas need to be shucked, then blanched; after the beans cool, you’ll need to pop them out of their waxy outer coating. (Don’t bother with this step if you find very young, tender favas.) Summon whatever pastoral imagery you’d like to help you along: pretend you’re shelling beans out on the veranda of your crumbling Tuscan villa. Hum sweetly to yourself. Look wistfully off into the sun-dappled distance.
But whatever you do, please don’t serve them with liver, and maybe a Primitivo or Chardonnay instead of that Chianti?