Last weekend, I was raving about ramps. Well, I kept a bunch aside to have with my favorite spring vegetable, fava beans. I have a love/hate relationship with fava beans. I love to eat them. I hate to prepare them. But there are times when I’m willing to put in all that work. What’s the big deal, you ask?
Well, fava beans come in these huge shells. Like other beans, they need to be removed from their shells before they can be eaten. Older beans don’t pop out easily and those tend to be the ones that show up in the grocery store. Once you have them shelled, you ready for the next step, blanching. In a pot of boiling water, toss your newly shelled fava beans into the boiling water and cook them for just a couple of minutes. You’re basically par-boiling. This will loosen their skin. Drain the hot water from the beans then shock the beans by placing them in a bowl of cold water. This will stop the cooking process. Then take each bean, pierce the skin with a paring knife and gently pop the bean from it’s skin. Essentially, we’re shelling fava beans twice, once from it’s shell and once from it’s thick skin.
I can remember the first time I helped prepare fava beans. It was also the first time I had eaten them. I was staying with my Great Aunty Beryl in England. It was springtime and she had picked broad beans, as she called them, fresh from her garden. Her homegrown beans were picked a little younger than the store bought ones I find here in the US and therefore a little easier to manage. I don’t even remember removing their tough skin, just shelling them. She added them to a vegetable soup in which she had sauteed each type of vegetable in bacon fat. I have to say it was the best vegetable soup I have ever tasted and the addition of fresh broad beans made it extra special. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Since they’re such a tasty bean, they need very little done to them after all that preparation. In fact, you don’t even need a recipe… you just need one tasty herb or member of the onion family – you could use chives, green onions, oregano, thyme, basil, cilantro, etc. I chose ramps because they are my new found love. I set aside my freshly shelled fava beans while I heated a saute pan with a little olive oil then added one bunch of minced ramps. I added the fava beans, seasoned it all with salt and pepper and cooked the entire dish until the beans were the texture I like best, tender but not mushy. And I served them just like that. The great thing about this dish is that it can be eaten hot, warm, or cold. The beans make a great addition to a salad but can also be served as a side dish. And, if you’re like me, you’ll just eat them as is with nothing else but a glass of good wine.