I think that fava beans are one of those things that you need to prepare yourself in order to truly appreciate them. I’m sure that I came across them before I lived in France, perhaps randomly poking out of a spring ragoût or crushed and smeared on some olive oil-brushed toast. However, it wasn’t until that spring in Paris that I actually bought some of my own.
Fava beans appeared suddenly and seemed to overwhelm the markets overnight. They overflowed from round baskets made of thin slats of wood that were stapled together. To fill your flimsy paper bags, you had to first elbow your way through ruthless matrons who did not care if they knocked off your glasses as they pinched and squeezed each pod to see which had the biggest and juiciest beans.
They were ridiculously cheap, mere centimes for a kilo.
You needed kilos of them too. Given that one kilo equals roughly 2.2 pounds, 2.2 pounds of pods would yield slightly more than one cup of beans once shucked. That cup would be reduced again to a mere 2/3 of a cup after removing the waxy, unappetizing membranes from the beans.
Fava beans were so abundant and economical in France that I just assumed that they were as available and inexpensive everywhere else.
Priced somewhere between $2-3 per pound, fava beans in New York are not the budget treat they were in France. However, once I developed a taste for them, I began eagerly anticipating their springtime arrival. Given that a small 2/3 cup serving of fava beans tends to run me about $5-6, I tend to favor recipes that prepare them simply in order to let their earthy, nutty, slightly bitter flavor and buttery texture shine.
Fava beans are still available at the markets here in New York, but elsewhere the season may be ending or has already passed. If you can’t find them easily or find the price prohibitive, I imagine that shelled edamame makes a respectable substitute.
This is one of those recipes where I encourage you can feel your way through it and modify it to fit your tastes. I used Pecorino Romano, a sharp, tangy, and salty sheep’s milk cheese that traditionally partners up with fava beans in and around Rome. However, using grated Parmesan in place of the Pecorino Romano results in a very nice spread too. For a little more smoothness, you can add a soft dollop of good ricotta, or maybe even a spoonful of thick, creamy yogurt.
However you make it, this dip, spread, or whatever you want to call it, is a terrific thing to dunk vegetables in, particularly radishes. You can also slather it on crostini.
About 2 pounds of fava beans in their pods
1/3 of a cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano
1/3 of a cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
How to prepare:
1. First of all, you will need to remove the beans from their pods. This is easy to do and is much like shelling peas. Once shucked, discard the empty pods, and blanch the beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes — any longer than that, and they will be mushy. Have an ice bath ready to shock the beans after draining them. By submerging the beans in ice water after cooking, you will retain their beautiful green color. When the beans are cool, remove the waxy outer-covering of each one by nicking the end of a bean with your finger nail and easily squeezing each one out of its peel. Discard the peels.
2. Combine the beans with the grated cheese in a food processor. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the consistency is nice, smooth, and thick. Transfer the spread to a bowl and season it freshly ground black pepper to taste. You shouldn’t need to add any salt because the cheese should be salty enough.
The spread should keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.
Unrelated query to Readers: Had a problem where this recently published post reverted back to a much earlier draft and “unpublished” itself. Spooky! Has this ever happened to anyone else?
60 thoughts on “Puréed Fava Bean and Pecorino Spread”
Wow … fava bean puree by itself doesn’t sound tempting to me but I bet with the Pecorino it would be terrific!
Thank you, John! Yes, once I did make this without Pecorino or Parmesan and it was quite bland. I couldn’t figure out what went wrong even though the wedge of cheese was sitting right there on the counter. Bright of me, right? 🙂
I love this purée ! It looks delicious, and I do agree about appreciating them more when you prepare them from beginning to end. I do have a question: where did you shop in Paris to find such cheap fava beans? 🙂 Here in Lille, they are usually around 4 euros a kilo (about 5 dollars)… which seems normal to me, and I would expect them to be much more expensive in Paris !
I lived on a market street (Rue de Buci) so prices could be quite competitive even for Paris. This was a while ago though , so I wouldn’t be surprised if prices have increased. Still, I remember eating so many that I was happy when the season ended!
I remembered our conversation here today as I ordered 2 kilos of LOCAL, ORGANIC fava beans for less than 5 euros at my “CSA”-equivalent here in Lille. I guess it is still possible to get cheap fava beans in France after all! 🙂
Hooray! Okay, it is more than I remembered, but mine were not local or organic. Still, that is still cheaper than what it is here for nonorganic!
I’m embarrassed to say that I have no experience with Fava beans. Do they have a heavy or filling taste to them?
Now that I think about it, they are kind of filling. I’m not exactly sure what the nutritional content is, but they can be very satisfying paired with something like rice or bread. Sometimes I see them called broad beans and they are pretty common in Persian cooking. If you see them fresh, they are worth a try!
They look pretty tasty! If I see them I might give them a whirl. I just saw your blueberry pear cake on your twitter feed on the side of your blog (which is awesome!) Ohhhh (writhing in hunger pain) now I want that for breakfast! Why did I read your blog before breakfast?!
Hee hee! Mom is making home-made egg rolls tonight 🙂
Great recipe that’s certainly worth trying. Had to look for these beans in the shop one of these days. 😉
Thank you, Malou! Yes, they are definitely worth seeking out!
It looks delicious! I have never pureed fava beans, so I must try this.
I’ll keep my eyes open for fresh fava beans.
Thank you so much, Caro! Fava beans turn rich and buttery when puréed. Very delicious. Do let me know if you find them and try it!
Thank you again for the kind comment and for dropping by!
love fava beans, and absolutely agree, the only way to truly experience them is by blanching them yourself at home. They great with a little mint too! Looks delish!!!!
Thank you, Paul! A little mint sounds like an amazing addition. I can just imagine it: fava beans, so ricotta (full-fat of course), and fresh mint. Wonderful. Thanks for the suggestion and for dropping by!
You’re welcome! I just remembered this fava dip my friend from work brought to a party, she had added mint in it and it was incredible. I’ve also made a dip with lava, and pressure cooked pistachios, a little olive oil, some mint and salt. Really tasty 🙂
That sounds like an awesome version. Pressure-cooked pistachios? I’ve never tried that. What were they like?
that’s how I turned them into more of a paste, the get soft. They taste about the same.
Interesting. I wonder if there is a way to do it without a pressure cooker . . .
3 hours in boiling water might do 🙂
I can see that. Do the pistachios keep their green color?
yeah, they might go a little muddy, but just on the outside
i’m intrigued! Am definitely going to try it when I get back 🙂
You (and Melissa Clark in the NYT in the last few days) are exactly right: this trend of unpeeled favas that is going around is just gross. They’re a huge pain to make properly, but it’s worth it! I just wish that somebody around here would grow them. Nobody does. And we only rarely find them at Whole Foods from god knows where. Your spread looks divine!
Thank you, Michelle! I just read that article from Melissa Clark. Unpeeled favas ARE gross! Beurk! People eat them unpeeled?! Maybe you’re supposed to peel them yourself …?
I’m kind of surprised to hear that they are hard to find where you are. I wonder if the low actual yield is the reason why, or maybe not that many people are familiar with cooking them? I do have to say that after shelling a couple pounds of them, I really wish that I had a place to compost the empty pods.
Glorious colour. The grey skin is enough to make me peel it off. It’s like a little gem inside.
The yield drives me crazy. I grew fava beans one season and my 5 plants yielded 2 tiny meals. I really got a new appreciation for them.
Being such a lazy cook, now I prefer to grow beans with either edible pods like purple and green string beans, or beans that I can eat straight off the vine like juicy fat peas.
Thank you for the kind comment! The color of the beans themselves is so pretty that I can’t see any cook not wanting to show it off. That grey skin is the worst, isn’t it? It just looks like a used . . . well, I’m not even going to say. It just doesn’t look very nice!
The yield on these things is so low that it’s easy to see the appeal of something that you can eat straight off the vine, pods and all (the idea of eating a fava bean pod makes me wrinkly my nose). I bet your green and purple string beans are the best!
It sounds and looks delicious, Daisy, but I can’t let go of the association with Hannibal Lecter, which somehow dampens my appetite. 😉
Thank you, Birgit!
Haha! I was thinking that the whole time that I was writing. He has tainted fava beans and chianti forever! 😉
Yes please! I LOVE pureed fava beans. I eat the shit out of fava beans in the springtime in the UK. Here, I can’t find ’em. Unpeeled fava beans? Bleurgh! Bitter!
I love fava beans too! You can’t find them in Seattle? Maybe check with your CSA farmer? If you can grow them in Britain, I can’t imagine you can’t grow them in Washington.
I don’t know who would eat an unpeeled bean either. Just the thought makes me shudder!
Yaay, delicious green food! Yummy!
Thank you so much, Lucas! Green food is delicious!
I agree, I love green asparagus in the summer (but since yesterday the weather is very autumn-like)
I’ve sent you a message re: the guest post.
Asparagus in the spring and summer is amazing too! What I’m really waiting for are the tomatoes in the late summer.
Just sent you a reply!
Love the beautiful color…I’m sure it tastes as delicious as it looks.
Thank you! The color is beautiful. Not sure why anyone wouldn’t want to peel the beans. They are just too pretty to leave in those unappealing membranes!
And it did taste delicious. Simple, but sometimes simple is best. Always wonderful to see you, Karen!
Lived in France? Didn’t you stop off in Wales too? Where haven’t you been? Don’t say Alaska. No one’s been there.
Nope, haven’t been to Alaska 🙂 The other place where I have spent a significant amount of time was West Africa. That was when I was a university student.
All fresh beans are work, but your recipe looks worth it. Fresh beans/peas will be available around here soon, and as you said, they are expensive.
Thank you, Scroungelady! Yes, whenever I buy a few pounds of fava beans, I cringe a little!
Wow it looks so good, I am a vegetarian so I’m already interested 🙂
If you don’t mind me asking, can you visit my blog? I think I posted 4 times and I could really use some helpful hints/thoughts on it. It’s been created for a few days now.
Thank you for the kind comment and for dropping by , thaygoulart!
Heading over to yours now. Welcome to the blogosphere!
Now that you mention them, I don’t think that I’ve seen any around where I live. But I’ve never really looked for them too.
Your purée looks really good and has a beautiful green color.
Merci beaucoup, Carine!
The season for them is kind of short too. However, they are totally worth getting if you find them. If only for the color!
I was just wondering yesterday what this is called in English as fava beans appeared in my risotto (I love them btw).
I can’t wait to try this because I can already tell it must be delicious! 🙂
Thank you so much, Ines! If you like the flavor of fava beans, simple preparations like this really bring out their flavor. A fava bean risotto sounds divine!
We plant broad beans every fall, for the sheer pleasure of how easily they grow and how good they are for the soil. Faced with bushels of pods to shell (and fiddly inner membranes to peel), I rue the folly of the whole enterprise. This post is full of why all that work is worth it. Every year I swear I won’t plant too many, but recipes like this make my resolve crumble!
Thank you so much, Siobhan! I bet your fava beans straight from the garden are amazing. They are fiddly, but so very worth it. How do you prepare them? I know they are used a lot in Persian cooking . . . are they common in Turkish food?
I just happen to have a bunch of favas in my crisper that up until this point had a big question mark hanging over them. Not any more! This sounds perfect. Thank you 🙂
Thank you so much, Lorraine! Do let me know how it goes and I’ll let you know how the test batches go too!
This looks lovely. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find fava (broad) beans anywhere in Denmark, but once I move back to Ireland I will be all over this.
Thank you for the lovely comment! Isn’t that interesting what is and what is not found in other countries? Blogger friends in Australia and New Zealand always tell me about feijoa, which I have never had. Have you?
I know. I’m on my fourth country now and each time I move I have to readjust my diet to what’s available. I saw it in Australia, but never tried it.
That is very true! I notice that going back and forth between the States and Europe, the biggest adjustment to make is flour. The US stuff is milled when the wheat is older, drier, and harder so it last longer. The European stuff is softer and “fattier.” Messes with my head every time!
Okay truthfully, I’ve never cooked or done anything with fava beans. I’ve always thought about it, but for some reason I just didn’t This actually looks amazing. But I think I will let you deal with the fava beans LOL.
Thanks, Kay! Fava beans are really fiddly. I think that if I had to prep pounds and pounds of them, I would probably get very tired very quickly! Next time they come around, come over and I’ll make this for you!
Looks delicious daisy. I think the dip would go so well with a truly authentic falafel too made from those fava beans.
Thank you so much, David! I never thought about putting it on falafel, but I agree that it would be terrific. Maybe there could be a different cheese to sub in for the Pecorino? And some nice harissa?
Thanks you again for the kind comment and for dropping by!