Fava beans — their pods swelling at the seams, the beans emerging with a vivid-green burst from their fuzzy chrysalises — are ready to be unzipped at the market, delivering on the promise of summer.
“Personally, I find podding fava beans pretty tedious,” says John Donohue of Sycamore Farms, “but when they’re young and tender and the casing is very soft and thin, you don’t need to bother. I don’t. I eat them raw, like this. They’re my snack of choice.” To prove the point he splits a pod and offers the beans to shoppers at the Greenmarket stall. The flavor is intensely green and bright, with a buttery-firm texture and a snap to the bite.
“We started picking them a week ago; we have a couple more weeks to go before they get too big and start to taste a little mealy. They’ve been great this year because of all the rain,” Donohue says.
Look for pods on the smaller side, with no black spots. They should look ready to burst at the seams. So go ahead, split them open. Pop the bean out of its skin, or live a little and don’t; then proceed. The beans can be tossed into salads (either raw, or quickly blanched and refreshed), especially vegetable-based salads with strong dressings — think lemon juice, mustard, tahini, lime, red- and white-wine vinegar, chile oil.
Add them to penne pasta, with a dollop of fresh ricotta and the zest of a lemon, to make an ad hoc sauce. Or try roasting them, tossed in olive oil and salt, alongside some thin spring asparagus spears, and top with an herby gremolata, or chopped hard-boiled egg and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts.
Sauté an onion, then add two cups of shelled fava beans and two cups of chicken stock. Simmer for a few minutes, then blend to make a soup. Serve topped with bacon lardons and chopped fresh mint. Or sauté the beans themselves in garlic butter and serve as a side, or crush and top a slice of toasted sourdough finished with a fried egg.
If lack of an air conditioner makes your kitchen an un-cookable place, check out the fava bean ricotta toast at the upstairs café at the Whitney, or marinated mussels and fava beans at Untitled.