Two words almost never seen paired together: quick and favas. Yet, both apply to this week’s Lazy Man’s Fava Bean Salad with Spring Greens and Pecorino. In retrospect, we might have called it Romantic Man’s (or Woman’s) Fava Bean Salad because it’s just the sort of thing that two people comfortable with bumping hips in a kitchen can make together for their own romantic lunch. The salad makes 4 servings, but these can be stretched if you’re serving it as a starter to, say, grilled lamb or fish.
Fava beans are the delectable ne plus ultra for Mediterranean bean lovers. They have an intense spring flavor when fresh and even in small quantities bring a distinct kapow of color and taste however they’re used in, whether in risotto, or in a salad assembled, like this one, from ingredients we already had in our fridge. They are labor intensive – you need to get them out of their pods and then out of the thick skin or husks (see photos below) that surround each bean. The traditional method is to sit around a mound of favas with a group of friends and a few bottles of wine and get loopy while splitting the pods and thumbs run down the roller coaster cars to throw the individual beans out of their seats. The beans need to be blanched before the last guardian of the bean, the thick skin or husk, can be pinched off. More wine.
Enter the grilling shortcut. Grill the whole pods until you get decent grill marks. Allow them to cool just a bit and then snip off one end of the pod with scissors. Squeeze the snipped pods and the beans come shooting out. These beans still need to be peeled – just pinch off a corner of the skin or husk and squeeze again.
The purple flower in our photos is borage, an herb that’s fairly hard to come by unless you know someone who grows it. It has a mild cucumber flavor and while people have been eating it for centuries without problem, especially in the small quantities with which it’s used in dishes like this, people with liver sensitivities are advised to avoid it. Any edible flowers will do here, as long as they add a splash of contrasting color to the salad. Enjoy. Ken
Lazy Man’s Fava Bean Salad with Spring Greens and Pecorino
- 3 pounds fava pods (Choose medium-sized pods with a nice green color.)
- ¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 ounces Pecorino cheese, cut into thin slices
- 4 ounces tender spring greens—pea tips, arugula, watercress, mâche, washed and spun dry
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dukkah (or chopped toasted almonds)
- Edible flowers, optional
- Heat a grill to high.
- Set the pods on a grill and cook on each side 4 minutes or until charred. Let rest 2 minutes.
- Snip off the ends and squeeze the beans out of the pod. When cool enough to handle, remove the outer skins from the beans. I like to separate the bean into 2 pieces. You want to move as quickly as possible so the beans don’t overcook and turn olive green.
- Crush the fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or directly in a salad bowl. Swirl in a tablespoon of oil. Add the favas and cheese and toss to coat.
- Add the greens, season with salt and pepper, add the lemon juice and another few tablespoons of olive oil and toss again.
- Distribute among 4 plates. Sprinkle with dukkah and edible flowers, if you have them, and serve immediately.
I first discovered favas 30 years ago. I fell in love with the whole shebang, with the pod and its sleeping-bag protection for the beans, and the beans themselves – flavor, color and shape. People complain, “But they require so damn much work!” I’m as interested in shortcuts as anyone else, but one of the pleasures of cooking is sinking into the process. Prepping favas is a simple task, the kind of work where your fingers can do one thing while you daydream (or not). Favas, like the old adage about firewood heating twice (chopping, burning) offer dual pleasures–slowing down, and eating.
Grilling doesn’t give the beans a particularly charred flavor, but it does make it much easier to get them out of the pod. They’re steamed in the pod on the grill. (You can make your guests share the work by giving everyone a plate full of snipped grilled pods, along with a wedge of good Pecorino, some olive oil, lemon juice and dukkah for dressing the beans.)
I never considered eating the pods until one of our runners from Morocco told me that his mom always snapped tender young pods into pieces and braised them with onions, garlic, tomatoes and other aromatics. I started using them for soups and sauces. (Only use pods that are bright green, firm, and not full of black spots.) If you’d like to see for yourself, check out our post on Littlenecks with Fava Pod Pesto.
I rather enjoy shelling broad beans, as they’re known here. I like sliding them out of their fur-lined jackets (love Jody’s sleeping bag analogy). But I’ve never thought of grilling them as a shortcut – good tip. And I do love your photographs. That’s the first time I’ve seen empty bean shells made to look beautiful.
Thank you, Linda. “Sleeping bags” – it’s a good one. Oh, and all of us look beautiful with the right lens in the right hands. :-) Ken
This is clever and so enticing! I love this type of simple preparation that highlights favas distinct flavor. I’m with Jody–I enjoy the meditative aspect of shelling favas–but why not lose an extra step? I can hardly wait till U-Pick favas are ready at my local farm. I saving this recipe for that moment. Thanks for what I expect will be another favorite recipe from you two.
Thank you. We were actually served grilled whole pods once in a restaurant. Of course I had to be told not to eat the pod – the beans inside were the treat. But either way grilling does make them easier to get at. And why not, for the occasional go – it’s not like we’re inundated with fresh favas all year. Ken
‘… but one of the pleasures of cooking is sinking into the process.’ Nice!
That’s the wife! Ken
This made me happy. I adore fava beans – we call them broad beans in England, and I have no problem with the time it takes to pop them and peel them and all of that. I like listening to the radio, that helps. But getting loopy…I’ll drink to that. Such a lovely post!
Hi, Sophie–Thanks. We have broad beans here too, but I think the term encompasses more than favas. Also, I see the term a lot with regard to beans in the fall. I’ll have to investigate. Ken
This looks perfect for a nice light dinner!
Just yesterday I saw a stack of fava beans at the market and it looks like I’ll be going back to pick some up! Your salad is so wonderfully spring. Love the crushed fennel seeds, tender spring greens and colorful borage. We must get the borage seeds in the ground this year. :) Oh, and that pecorino is gorgeous! I love to see your posts!
Thank you. The Pecorino is great. For some reason, ever since our trip to Sardinia, I’ve been obsessed with Pecorino, perhaps because so much of what we had was wonderful, whereas I’d previously been inclined to think of it in more generic terms. In this case, Jody’s responsible and we threw away the wrapper so I can’t give you the name. Ken
What a beautiful salad. I think Jody’s description of the joy of being really in it, sold it for me. I’m doing it. I love borage flowers. I actually who has a friend who grows them in her garden and gave me some last year. I just love spring. :) Thanks for the inspiration as always.
Thanks – happy to bring a little spring into your life. I like to think that more – and younger – people are discovering the joys of disconnecting and just cooking, but maybe I’m deluding myself. Lucky you with the borage flowers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them retail, just through private gardeners or commercial vendors for restaurants. Ken
I have always wondered what fava beans are exactly and in fact I think they are the same as broad beans here in the UK. I love them and their bright green colour and taste. Your recipe looks perfect for spring/summer and will most definitely be using your recipe. Great too with roast lamb or beef as you mentioned. Best Torie
Hi, Torie–According to other English readers they are exactly the same as broad beans (in England), although I’m not sure the American use of the term is quite so precise. I think I’ve seen the term used here for a variety of large beans sold in pods in the later summer and early fall. I’ll have to look into it further. The recipe is delicious and worth jumping on, if only because fresh favas are available only for a brief period (at least on this side of the Atlantic) and they go great with Pecorino. Ken
I keep seeing fava beans at my local whole foods and had no idea how to prepare them. Thanks for the tips on grilling and removing the skins from the beans! You may have given me courage to try them!
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