Summer Ingredient: All About Fava Beans

Call them what you like - Windsor beans, broad beans, horse beans or pigeon beans - fava beans are delicious no matter their name. They have a slight bitter taste to them along with a nice nutty flavor, which is perfect for summer. They have been around as staples of the Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern diets. So how do you cook them and what do you serve them with, you might ask? The process will be labor-intensive but well worth it. Invite a few friends over and provide them with delicious cocktails. Fava-shelling would be extra fun with a Sake Champagne Mojito or Sangria Flora.

* Fava beans come into season in the late spring and peak in July. Usually around 8 to 10 inches in length, the actual beans are protected by pods lined with a spongy material as well as a thick outer skin all of which needs to be removed before eating. Getting them shelled is a bit of work but you're left with a bright, emerald green bean with a buttery texture.

* To shell fava beans, snap off the stems at each end then pull down the "string" to remove and open the pods. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt so the beans stay green. Cook the beans for one minute then drain. Plunge the blanched fava beans into a bowl of ice water and let them cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Lastly, shell the beans once again by prying open the top with your thumb nail and popping out the fresh bean within.

* Fava beans are high in fiber and iron and low in sodium and fat. With no cholesterol and a whole lot of protein, fava beans are known as "the meat of the poor" because they were credited as saving Sicilians from starving during famine. Now they are not only considered good luck but they are super tasty when used in recipes!

* Use fresh favas in the typical Italian way by putting them in a spring salad along with parsley, hot peppers and young cheese and drizzle olive oil and lemon juice on top. You can also puree favas with garlic and arugula to make a great party dip. Fava beans are also great on top of crostini in any form and pair great with artichokes or morels.

Now you have a whole slew of options to get started. What will you make first with your next batch of fava beans?

Photo: Luvjnx