Anytime you see fava beans on a menu in a restaurant, order them. It doesn't matter how they're prepared (although simple is best): fava beans are a labor of love. They have a brief season, are toxic to some unfortunate souls, and are the national food of Egypt. They are also one of my favorite foods (I thought you could use an asparagus break, although I'll be back tomorrow with more); they are nutty and meaty, they don't really need any fussing around with - fresh fava beans are the very essence of the early growing season (I'll say the same about asparagus, sweet peas, various greens, chives, etc. but I mean it every time).
If I didn't say it emphatically enough before, I'll repeat: the best ingredients need the least gussying up. Keep that in mind. A young fava bean barely needs salt, let along a million other ingredients. They make divine bruschetta, but tonight, I decided I could wait no longer to devour them and consequently, they received a very simple treatment. Just as a side note, these are not local fava beans (they came from Whole Foods); as a matter of fact, I cannot recall purchasing favas from any farmer's market around Columbus - let's get on that, shall we?
I mentioned that favas are a labor of love, and here's why: Fava beans come in a rather large pod (6 inches or so) which only contains about 3-4 beans per pod. They must be removed from the pod (not as simple as shelling peas), blanched, and then shelled again - favas have a secondary husk which must be removed before eating. But! Without further ado, here's a little tutorial. I hope it makes sense without pictures.
Fava Beans with Olive Oil and Parmesan - Serves 2 as a little snack
1 pound fava bean pods, favas removed from pods (further description of husking follows; removing them from the pods should be self-explanatory)
Really good extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt (I like Maldon)
Freshly cracked black pepper
Place the favas in boiling water and blanch for 2 minutes. Rinse in cold water and begin the second shelling. Of course, as with all tedious things, there's an easy way: (for a right-handed person) take the fava bean in your left hand, between thumb and forefinger, "belly" (hollow, scooped out side) up, with the sprout end (sometimes has a black striped) towards your right hand. With your right hand, hold a small pairing knife perpendicular to the bean, cut horizontally across the sprout end, making a tiny slit. Squeeze the bean out of the husk; it should pop right out. Repeat, ad nauseum, remembering the whole time how delicious favas are and how much you are going to enjoy them.
Bring another pot of water to a boil and salt liberally. Add the husked beans and boil for another 2 minutes. Rinse the beans lightly in cold water and drain well. Place on plates and drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add just a few tiny grates of Parmesan.
Eat, savoring bean by bean, enjoying the fruits of your labor.