Monday, May 09, 2011

The incredible shrinking fava bean

Fava bean chart
I bought some fava beans yesterday to use in a recipe from Elizabeth Andoh’s “Kansha” and decided to pull out my scale to document the tedious bean peeling routine. I started with 552 grams of whole fava bean pods. Pod removal netted me 192 grams of skin-on beans.  I blanched the skin-on beans for 1 minute, dropped them in cold water, then one-by-one extracted the bean from its skin, yielding 116 grams of ready to eat beans. That’s a 21% yield by weight (and probably much less by volume, as a fava bean pod is spongy and light).  Whole fava beans sell for $2-$3 per pound at the Berkeley Farmers Market, so for this batch the beans themselves cost between $9.50 and $14.25 per pound.  The chart above and the photos below show the shrinkage of the beans.  (Sunset's One Block Diet blog has a rumination on the pain of fava beans with some useful, but intensely color unbalanced, photos of how to shell and peel fava beans.)

 
 


The “Kansha” recipe I was trying for the first time had an appealing and fitting title: “Springtime in a Bowl.” The two main ingredients of fava beans and sugar snap peas are two signs of Spring in the supposedly season-free San Francisco Bay Area. As Andoh creations go, it was fairly simple: steam the fava beans, steam some sugar snap peas, puree with soy milk, add stock and white miso, puree again, then heat and pour over a block of silken tofu.

But alas, I wasn’t happy with the springtime in a bowl.  The fava flavor – the flavor that I had worked so hard to liberate from the pods – was buried and Hodo Soy Beanery’s silken tofu is far too soft for this recipe, so I wasn’t able to properly appreciate it.

Next time I work with fava beans, I’ll probably try something that keeps the beans whole, attempt the whole fava bean recipe by Sophie Brickman in the San Francisco Chronicle, or stick with fava bean greens.

Going for the Green
A few years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle's Michael Bauer noted a trend of fava bean leaves in local restaurants.  I wrote a post about his article and my contemporary experience with fava leaves (including a recipe for a frittata with fava greens).

This year, Happy Boy Farms has been bringing bags of fava bean leaves (plastic bags, unfortunately) to the Berkeley Farmers Market (and, presumably, their other markets).  The leaves offer an easy way to get some of the flavor of fava beans without all of the work.  So far I've used them in a frittata, made a pesto for pasta, and put them in a few other dishes that I can't remember.

The on-line recipe aggregator MyRecipes.com has a handful of fava green recipes from Sunset Magazine, including Fava Green, Grapefruit, and Flower Salad, Fava Leaf and Parsley Quiche, and Linguine with Fava Greens, Shrimp, and Green Garlic.  A recipe for Fava green, edible flower, and poached egg salad from Sunset's One Block Diet.



Random link from the archive: Learning to control my temper: making dipped chocolates, part 3

5 comments:

Patricia said...

I so enjoyed reading this blog post. I love the bar graph! For years I have grown fava beans in an effort to replenish the nitrogen in my soil before my summer garden planting. I love watching their development...I think they are the beanstalk that Jack climbed! Harvesting the beans certainly takes time. I marvel at how clever nature is in the packaging...the pods seem to have their own bubble wrap with the sponging layer inside the pod. And yes, the little handful of actual fava is small in comparison to what you started with. The tastiest thing I have made with them is a topping for crostini, making a type of pesto with the cooked bean, thyme, garlic and olive oil, S & P. I have an Umbrian Fava Stew recipe that I intend to try with some of the blanched beans I have frozen that keeps them whole. This year, for the first time I cooked the greens in a frittata and enjoyed them. I like thinking of what an ancient plant they are, possible even grown by the Etruscans. Here is my post on the favas in February: http://lifeasiliveit-patricia.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-am-gardener-growing-fava-beans.html Thanks for the links and recipes.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

How does this compare to an ear of corn, or a hard-shelled crab?

Doesn't seem so terrible.

Cooking Contests said...

This has to be the most mathematical food post I've seen in a long time! :)

I've never cooked with fava beans, although I've had them and really like their flavor. Can you give me some recommendations for dishes to try?
~Nancy Lewis~

emily said...

If you also plotted how many minutes you spent for each step, you'd see why I just eat the skins!

Anonymous said...

Strange. I had always heard that fava leaves were toxic. Happy to find out this isn't true.