Fava Beans with Caramelized Onions
It’s springtime!!!! I popped out of bed this morning like a Jack-in-the-Box (if you are under 30 years old just Google it. Hint. It’s a primitive toy that doesn’t need to be plugged into an outlet. Crazy, right?). Now, when I think springtime I think daffodils, newly invigorated grass with a sharp acid green hue…and I also think fava beans and fiddlehead ferns (more about the fiddlehead ferns in a week of two). If you’ve never had fava beans you’re really missing out. While called a bean, favas are actually part of the pea family and they have a bright and creamy flavor.
This unique flavor is not easy to get to. Like most peas, fava beans grow in a pod. But unlike most peas, this is only half the battle (ugh!). Once you’ve crack the pod you’ll realize that each fava is actually encased in its own individual membrane (double ugh!). But hold firm, keep your resolve. Trust me, it’s worth it…
Because they are so labor intensive, restaurants tend to use fava beans as accents – scattering 4 or 5 five of these little jewels – to pretty up an entree. But since I am a glutton for punishment, I like to go all the way, baby. My favorite way to prepare fava beans happens to be the most direct and honest appreciation of their unique flavor - sauté a mound of them and toss them with caramelized onions. The ‘calm’ buttery flavor of the favas are a great match for the punch of the sweet onions.
Okay, enough setup, let’s get down to business. The recipe. Actually, before we get to that, let me give you a tip on how to ease the favas out of their blankets. After you remove the beans from the pod, the best way to extract them from the membrane is to blanch them in boiling water for 3 minutes. Immediately dunk the beans in ice water until they are cool enough to handle. Here comes the tedious part. One by one, you now will need to pinch the beans out of the membrane – they should just pop out. Now, just repeat this 100 more times and you’re ready for dinner. What fun, right?
SAUTEED FAVA BEANS WITH CARMELIZED ONIONS
1 lb Fava Beans (in their pods)
1 tbl Butter
1/2 Onion (sliced)
1/4 tsp Dried Thyme
2 tsp Granulated Sugar
Salt and Pepper
Remove beans from pod but leave them in their individual membranes. Blanch the beans in boiling water for three minutes. Immediately put beans ice bath until cool enough to handle. Pinching at one end, squeeze the each bean out of its membrane – should yield about 1.5 cups of shelled fava beans.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add sliced onions, thyme and sugar and stir once to mix ingredients. Allow to sit until onions have browned on on bottom and sides (about 5 minutes). Lower burner, stir and continue cooking until the onions are cooked through. Toss in fava beans and heat until they are warmed (about 1 minute).
Serves 4 (as a generous side)