When I shell peas, any kind of fresh bean in a pod, I am instantly transported back to the early days of my childhood. Pop open a pea pod and that sweet, almost green smell brings me a vivid sensory memory of the old farmhouse we once lived in and the lush vegetable garden my mother lovingly tended by hand. When I sat down in front of my television the other night to peel six pounds of fresh Fava beans (also known as an English “broad bean”), I was immediately transported to my days as a make-believing six year old, sitting cross-legged on the screened-in porch, shelling a bowl of peas.
While a caught up on my Tivo’d recordings, I snapped the tiny green caps off the end of my Fava bean pods and, recalling the same wonder I felt as a child, I zippered open its belly with the pod’s center “string”. Once inside the pod, I was like a child observing nature’s ingenious design. I marveled at the white spongy material that held the tender beans in place and protects them from harm. Curious, I popped a fresh Fava from the shell and put one in my mouth. The flavor made me cringe a little as I discovered that fresh Fava beans are too bitter to be eaten raw. Considering how long it takes to shell a fava bean, it’s a good thing that the beans’ fresh, green, earthy flavors are just perfect for short cooking time.
Many chefs cook young, fresh Favas in the pod while others recommend shelling the beans and cooking them in salted water for salads, side dishes and purees. After an hour of shelling, I decided upon a recipe that was not only extremely easy to prepare but also something uniquely original. In a city filled with fava bean purees and fava bean salads, it was rather refreshing to find a decadent dish such as this.
The following recipe from the Silver Spoon is sure to please the adults at the table, along with curious six year olds with a hankering for shelling fresh peas.
FAVA BEANS IN CREAM
Adapted from the Silver Spoon cookbook
3 pounds Fava beans, shelled
1 cup heavy cream
2 oz Fontina
Cook beans in salted water for 10 minutes. Drain the beans and then tip into a skillet. Add cream and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in fontina and cook until it is just starting to melt.