Fava Beans: They’re Worth It!

I have many food weaknesses. Ice cream, gummy bears, white bread with lots of butter. I share this as a form of therapy. My public declaration will give me the strength to keep on the righteous path of wellness. Won’t it?

But not all of my culinary longings involve large amounts of sugar, fat and refined grains. Every spring I get to indulge my nutritionally acceptable desire for….fresh fava beans! And just in time for Mediterranean Diet Month.

Fava beans.

As I understand it, they were brought to this continent thousands of years ago from countries located near and around the Mediterranean. Sadly, they haven’t made great inroads into our eating consciousness. Probably because they’re, er, a little labor intensive. They actually have to be shelled and then peeled. Which is why maybe it’s a good thing that the growing season is a short one. I’m quite happy to do all the work (with help) until, quite frankly, I’ve had my fill.

Here’s what you do:

1.  Shell the beans in the same manner as you would peas. This happens to be a perfect job for the kids. They’ll love it, really.

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2.  Of course, you aren’t done yet. There’s still that second coat that has just got to come off. Some people claim that they’re fine left intact, but I wholeheartedly disagree. Boil a pot of salted water, and toss them in for a minute or less. Drain and let cool until you can comfortably handle them.

Parboiled and wrinkly skinned. Ready to peel.

Parboiled and wrinkly skinned. Ready to peel.

3.  The next job is for adults or older kids with good motor skills. You must delicately pinch a hole in the light outer skin before popping out the fava bean with your fingers. It’s actually not that hard but, again, time-consuming. Better yet, do it with your kids as you talk over their day. Family bonding time.

At this point, they’re ready for anything. I feel about fava beans the same way I do about strawberries. They’re so delicious I only want to eat them plain–without a lot of adornment. This means I usually just saute them in a skillet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Just long enough to ensure that they are tender throughout.

Dinner tonight?

I toasted slices of whole wheat sourdough and spread on a thin schmear of olive tapenade. Next came a slightly thicker schmear of hummus (yes, we’re embracing the Mediterranean theme) followed by a generous sprinkling of the pan cooked favas and fresh ground pepper.

first layer, olive tapenade

first layer, olive tapenade

Simple dinner

Simple dinner

If you’re looking for more ideas, here are a few good ones.

Cold Sesame Soba Noodle and Fava Bean Salad from Food52.

Fava Bean and Radish Bruschetta from the Kitchn.

Grilled Fava Beans from 101 Cookbooks.

Remember a little hard work never did anybody harm. And since favas are a good source of fiber, protein, phosphorous and folate, they will only do good things for your body. Enjoy some this season!

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The Secret to Packing School Lunch

In a word?  Leftovers.

On occasion, I show glimpses of a type A, “Mother of the Year” persona and whip out lunch box specialties, but honestly, it’s usually about what’s handy.  And what’s at hand is what we ate for dinner the night before.

Soups, spaghetti, grilled chicken, even salad.  It all goes in if I’ve got it in the refrigerator.  If it’s meant to be hot, I might warm it up before packing so it isn’t stone cold.  Sam is happy to eat normally hot foods at room temperature (and so am I).  It’s along the same line as cold pizza.  Sometimes it’s just as good that way.

One family dinner that translates well to school lunch is the slow cooker Hoisin and Ginger Shredded Pork from the Kitchn.  It’s great on so many levels: easy to make (love my crockpot), flavorful and super lunch friendly.

Served over farro with salad and broccoli.

Served over farro with salad and broccoli.

I always sleep easier knowing that lunch is practically made.  And with a whole wheat tortilla, some leftover salad and few sprigs of cilantro, this pork wrap comes together in a minute.

006Add in leftover pan cooked broccoli, a sliced blood orange (Jim brought them home from a colleague’s tree) assorted nuts and, voila, a healthy lunch from home.

The lunch that prepares itself!

The lunch that prepares itself!

Do you send leftovers for lunch?  Which ones pack well for school?