As a foodie, I of course visited the market at Grand Central Terminal on my recent visit to New York. It was very frustrating to see and smell all the luscious food and not buy because I had no way to deal with it in my hotel room.
Sadly, I didn't discover fresh fava beans until a few years ago. I'd see them in grocery stores occasionally in spring but they always looked kind of funky and I had no idea what to do with them.
Once I started experimenting with favas I quickly discovered that one of the keys to success is determining whether they are fresh and young, or overgrown and old. Most likely when you encounter them in a chain grocery store they are the latter. They can still be delicious if properly prepared. However, in my opinion they will never reach the heights of fresh baby favas which you have just picked yourself while the pods are still small and the beans are less than 1/2 inch in length. Rarely, you might encounter these at a reliable farm stand or farmer's market.
If you are lucky enough to find a supply of freshly picked baby favas, don't even think about cooking them. Simply pop the beans out of the shell (no need to peel) and eat them plain with some shaved imported parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano and a glass of your favorite white wine. Sheer heaven, especially if you are sitting outside on a beautiful spring day.
So what to do with the older large beans you are most likely to encounter? First separate the beans from the flabby thick outer pod. Then toss them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Immediately immerse them in ice water and allow them to cool. At that point remove the skin from each bean. It's easy. Simply pinch the end and pop the bean out. Dry the beans well between paper towels. Many of them will split in two along their natural seams...it's doesn't matter.
So what to do with a pile of peeled favas? Here are a few suggestions. Since they reach their peak at artichoke season, why not braise them briefly with baby artichokes for a great combination. Or even simpler, just saute them for a few minutes in butter and/or EVOO. Season them with fresh herbs for a lovely side dish. Simplest of all throw them in a salad as I did last night (they really don't need further cooking after the skin is removed unless they are seriously old in which case they should be tossed).
Fava Bean Salad
Make a sharp vinaigrette with your best EVOO, best white wine vinegar, Dijon and S & P. Toss the favas with the dressing, a couple handfuls of arugula, 1 T each minced mint and Italian parsley. Correct seasoning. Divide between two salad plates and shave over some excellent imported parmigiano.
Tip: Favas are easy to grow and the blossoms are quite beautiful. Squeeze in a few rows at the back of a border for a great springtime treat.