Fava beans are coming in season. Fresh, they're delicious, but they're also a pain in the ass. You've got to shell them — twice. First, from their large pods (pictured above). Secondly, from their individual wrappers after boiling for about five minutes in salted water.
Favas with Olive Oil
Start with four pounds of favas in their pods and you're left with a half pound of edible beans if you're lucky. Is it worth it? Whether the labor is what you want to spend your evening doing is a personal choice. But for me, spring favas, just boiled, glowing green, warm as lips, swimming in a glossy olive oil with a cover of coarse sea salt are totally worth it. It's not a dish I make often. But the first time each year is a bright sign of spring. I know the mud is receding and the earth will soon be littered with grass.
Fresh favas also go well in pasta. Here's a dish I recently made with favas, spring peas and Martelli maccheroni. It's worth mentioning since it incorporates a lot of good things you find at their best in spring.
Tender Young Thing Pasta
Chop some fresh mild sausage into small bites (I like one my butcher makes with fennel seeds). Brown it in a deep skillet, then put the cooked pasta and some of its pasta water in the pan. Add the favas and fresh spring peas (already parboiled very al dente), then a few spoons of ricotta. Stir. Add fresh young arugula and pea shoot leaves, some freshly grated lemon zest. A couple turns of the spoon and count to one hundred and it's done. Top it off with more ricotta dollops, freshly grated black pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano and a small handful of shredded mint leaves. If you are able to nab some spring morels they'd also be welcome. I guess pretty much any tender young thing is fine to add.
Spring cooking like this can be fussy, a lot of work. There's lots of shelling and an annoying tangle of trimming since arugula and shoots are very stemmy at this time of year. But do the work and, with it, know you've broken winter's back for good.