Last weekend my kids and I were hit with the stomach flu and the thought of food was nearly unbearable. My apologies to all three of you who were looking for my post bright and early last Monday morning. So, without further delay...this week I chose Fava Beans. I know that these aren't all that strange, but I found them in the pod and since I have never worked with them before I thought I'd give it a try.
Fava beans are native to northern Africa and are also called broad beans or field beans. They are high in protein, iron, potassium, and the fat-soluable vitamins A and K. They shouldn't be eaten by anyone taking MAO inhibitors for anti-depression or those with the hereditary disease G6PD, but the presence of L-dopa makes fava beans a homeopathic remedy for Parkinson's and hypertension, as well as a natural alternative to Viagra. They are available dried (a process that turns them brown), or raw in the pod where they are green inside and out.
The pod is a little less than a foot long and it opens easily. Inside, the beans line up in a row and each individual bean is the size and shape of your thumb pad. Once you have removed them from the fuzzy white interior of the pod, the outer skin of the actual bean has to be removed. This is easily done with a clean fingernail. It is a relatively labor intensive process as vegetables go, but my 2 1/2 year old had fun helping shell the beans.
I thought about making the Egyptian national dish Ful Medames, which is usually served for breakfast and consists of mashed fava beans, garlic, cumin and lemon, but all the recipes I found called for dried fava beans. So, maybe another time.
Whenever anyone mentions fava beans I think of Italian food; actually, I think of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector who unforgettably said, "I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti." Not wanting to try his menu, I decided to make a bacon and fava bean risotto.
Risotto is a method of cooking rice, usually arborio rice, in which you add the liquid little by little and stir frequently to produce a creamy, hearty dish. Here's the quick how to: Saute some minced onion in olive oil, add the rice and toast it for a few minutes, add a cup of white wine and simmer until it is almost dry. Then add chicken stock (or vegetable stock) cup by cup, sauteing each until almost dry and stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. You will probably need between three or four cups. When the rice is tender but still has a slight bite, add a pat of butter, a splash of heavy cream, and some Parmesan cheese. From here, you can add whatever you want -- sauteed mushrooms, spinach, peas, the sky's the limit. So, after a quick blanch and shock, I added the fava beans to the risotto, along with the bacon. Once cooked, they are mild and and delicious and made a nice textural and color addition to the risotto.