During winter months, I have a routine for getting supper on the table quickly after a long day. As soon as I walk in the door, I put a pot of water on to boil and light the oven. By the time I’ve let out the dogs, tended the kids, and changed my clothes, the stage is set. Surely something from the pantry or fridge will work in that scenario, steamed, boiled, baked or roasted. In the summer, I just start the pot of water since I have a “potager,” a fancy name for the vegetable patch just outside my kitchen door. Surely I can find something that could use a quick dunk in water for an immediate, seasonal and rewarding meal. Or be eaten raw. Or be quickly stir-fried.
At this time of year, my garden is full of peas, numerous herbs and greens and, for the first time, fava beans. The greens from the peas and favas are also fair game for dinner and are as delicious as they are nutritious. Unlike peas and green beans that hang down from their stems, favas grow upward until their weight folds their stems down. That was a surprise. (I need to research this plant.) The beautiful cream-colored blossoms with dark violet hearts shrivel to little wisps that resembles black paper, out of which emerge pods that start at half an inch and grow to seven! Like peas and beans, you need to keep harvesting the pods so that the plant continues to grow and produce new fruit. I’m already on my third harvest from the favas that I planted in early April and grew as upright plants. They’re about 3’ high. I staked them as a precaution but they hardly need it. (I am also growing climbing favas in a big pot topped with a tomato cage, but I may have planted this too late to get much of a yield.) I live in a town, not in the country, so anyone could do this.
Fresh fava beans – sometimes referred to as broad beans — are sometimes hard to find and definitely expensive to buy. The evaluation of the price per pound has to take into account that you get a huge weight pod filled with 5-7 beans that have a thick pliable shell that has to be removed before you get to the beans. I haven’t done the math, but I bet the price per pound for ready-to-eat beans is at least 4 times as high as the already exorbitant price for the whole pods. We are growing some that we bought from a seed company and some that we bought in bulk at our local health food store. They’re fresh enough to sprout, so why not?
To cook favas, remove the beans from the big pods plunge them into boiling water for a few seconds, longer for older beans that you want to be thoroughly cooked. Let the pods cool only until you can handle them and cut a small slit in one end, squeezing to expel an inner, bright green bean, which often splits in half when young.
Which brings me back to the start. For this simple supper, I harvested fava beans, snow peas, and herbs (in this case mint). I shredded zucchini in long strands to mimic the spaghetti that I grabbed from the pantry. And I zested a lemon and squeezed its juice. When the water came to a boil, I dunked the favas and set them aside to cool. In went a sieve-full of long strands of zucchini (in the sieve) just to temper them. Then the snow peas, which were sieved out in a few seconds, followed by the spaghetti. In the few minutes that it took to cook the spaghetti, I shelled the favas and added the lemon zest and a splash of olive oil to the zucchini. Finally, all of the ingredients were assembled for the meal. Under 30 minutes and just great.