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Spring Cooking: Fava Beans with a Nice Chianti (Or Quinoa)

Over the past few weeks we’ve examined all sorts of spring produce, from rhubarb to strawberries to artichokes to asparagus and beyond. You haven’t heard much in the way of ramps over here since the West Coast doesn’t have them. We aren’t so, um, rampant about ramps if you will, like in the Midwest or East Coast. It’s asparagus all day, every day out here. But, we do need green spring vegetable variety.

This time of year, everybody loves fava beans. Yes, fava beans have a slightly negative connotation from the famous Anthony Hopkins quote in “The Silence of the Lambs.” After a few fava bean dishes, you’ll quickly get over the need to pair fava beans with a Chianti.

Oenotri, Napa: Beets with Citrus, Wood Oven Roasted Young Fava Beans, Sunflower Sprouts, and Pistachios

Oenotri, Napa: Beets with Citrus, Wood Oven Roasted Young Fava Beans, Sunflower Sprouts, and Pistachios

Last week, I truly enjoyed a fresh, bright red quinoa salad at Forage in Silver Lake, the epicenter of fresh, bright quinoa salads in Los Angeles. The quinoa mingled with chickpeas (not seasonal), artichokes (very Spring), and yes, no shortage of shelled fava beans (very Spring).

The salad reminded me of how fava beans deserve the same fervent fan base that asparagus has. If you’ve ever been to Germany this time of year, you’ll know what I mean. Literally every single meal incorporates the precious white asparagus for three weeks in May.

What I love about fava beans is that they are softer than edamame beans, with a wonderful nutty meets sweet flavor that isn’t far off from an Oloroso Sherry.

Remember, whether you choose to eat the beans raw or cooked, not only do you have to take the beans out of the pods à la green beans, but then also take off the secondary thin white layer on each individual bean with a knife to puncture the surface, or boiling them in water for 30 seconds. 

Here are four very worthwhile recipes for your fava bean pleasure at home.

My favorite vehicle for fava beans is as a purée on crisp toast bruschetta style, whether simply the beans mashed themselves with olive oil like my local café does, or joined by greens and blood oranges like in this recipe from the chef Joanne Weir.

You can pair them with another seasonal favorite, spring onions.

Spring-time favorites peas, artichokes, and mint join the favas in a farfalle dish from The New York Times.

Or, be creative with the classic fava bean based Egyptian breakfast staple, Ful Medames.

Fava Beans With Some Nice Red Quinoa

Fava Beans With Some Nice Red Quinoa

The list goes on and on. Why not try fava beans in cocktails or dessert while you’re at it. Pickle the fava beans for the winter. Dehydrate the fava beans to go in a summer cocktail party nuts mix. A simpler method to use favas is purée them, then combine with some lemon juice, garlic, and sherry vinegar for a flexible sauce on the season’s fresh salmon, or the summer’s first barbeque steak.

However you enjoy your fava beans, Chianti certainly doesn’t have to be paired with them at all times.

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