Years ago, I lived in a Greek neighborhood in Queens, New York. Every block had its own cramped vegetable market, and you gauged spring by the dandelion greens and fava beans in haphazard heaps. The favas were an exciting discovery, and one April, I painstakingly peeled more than five pounds to bring to a family dinner. Fava beans, unless they are young and small, require that you remove them from their soft and fuzzy pods, blanch them in boiling water, then peel each individual bean of its tough skin. Allow LOTS of time. That done, I drizzled the now pale green beans with excellent olive oil, squeezed a lemon over them, stirred in mint, basil, salt and pepper. I topped the lot with curly ribbons of expensive Parmesan. Hours later, highly pleased with myself, I brought the bowl of pretty beans to the dinner table.
“I don’t like lima beans,” my sister sniffed haughtily. Almost no one touched them.
She had a point. Like Leslie and me, limas and favas are in the same family (Fabaceae). But looking back from a distance of 15 years, I can confidently say, “Your loss, Les.” (I hope she’s not reading this). Favas – big, robust, meaty beans that don’t arrive in Maine until July – are an underrated treasure. Shell, blanch and peel, then enjoy them in a frittata with green beans and garlic scapes; toss them into pasta with young goat cheese and artichoke hearts; use them in succotash with corn kernels, red peppers, onions, bacon, basil and a glug of cream; toss them into a chicken braise; puree them with fresh ricotta, olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs and spread the mash atop crostinis, “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera,” as Yul Brynner said in the King and I (he was not speaking of fava beans).
By the way, lima beans don’t deserve their bad rap. If you haven’t eaten fresh ones, you haven’t eaten them. But that’s another story.
— PEGGY GRODINSKY