This fava bean puree is a simple, elegant appetizer made with just fava beans, garlic, olive oil, and rosemary.
Fresh fava beans have an extraordinary flavor like no other bean. The early beans of spring are small and tender, and a delicacy in soups, salads, and pastas. Larger, more mature and starchy favas are better suited to longer cooking and make a brilliant green puree to spread on croutons. Fava beans require a little extra effort to shell and peel before cooking, but they’re well worth it.–Alice Waters
Fava Bean Puree
- 2 to 3 pounds fava beans in the pod*
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary leaves
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and fill a bowl halfway with ice water. Meanwhile, shell the beans, exposing the inner skin. Discard the spent pods.
- Blanch the beans for 30 seconds or so, just long enough to loosen the inner skins, then drain the favas and plop them in the ice water. (This stops the cooking and preserves their vivid green color.) Peel the beans, using your thumbnail to tear the skin at one end and then squeeze the skin to pop out the fava beans.
- Heat about 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-ish heat. Add the fava beans, the water, and a generous pinch of salt and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the beans are very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add more water if needed to keep the mixture moist.
- Remove the pan from the heat and mash the beans to a paste with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Make a well in the center of the pan, pour in another few tablespoons of olive oil, and add the garlic and rosemary to the oil.
- Return the pan to medium heat and cook gently until the garlic starts to sizzle and releases its fragrance. Stir the fragrant oil mixture into the beans and then season with a few grinds of pepper. Taste and add more salt, olive oil, or water as needed. Serve heaping spoonfuls of it warm as a side dish or spread the warm or room-temperature puree on toasted bread as a pre-dinner nosh.
*How do I shell fava beans?As Alice notes, there’s a little extra effort demanded by those little harbingers of spring known as fava beans. As Alice explains in her book, first they must be stripped from the large green spongy pods, and then each bean needs to be peeled to remove the skin. Here's how to do it—Break open the pods by sliding your thumb down the seam, gather the beans and discard the pods. Blanch the favas in boiling water for one minute, then scoop them out and plunge them into a bowl of ice water. This will loosen the skins so they're easier to remove. Give'em a little rub between your fingers and the beans will slip right out. Discard the fibrous and bitter skins. Now you're ready to go. The extra effort may not earn you extra credit in anyone’s eyes but ours, but honestly? That fresh fava flavor is the only just reward you’ll require. Trust us.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
I was unable to locate fresh fava beans, so I used frozen. First I thawed the beans, then I cooked them. The flavor was still very good, the texture was also nice and creamy. If the puree was yummy using frozen, it must be sublime using fresh! Cannot wait to try. My favorite part of the recipe is the garlic rosemary oil. So very simple, yet it has an impact.
Having made many purees, I can assure you that this would also be good using chicken stock or vegetable stock rather than water (if you’re using frozen beans—fresh, young beans wouldn’t need extra flavour). Fresh mint would be nice, too. Next time, we’ll serve this puree with grilled lamb chops. Although my husband wasn’t excited about fava beans in the past, he was won over with this dish!
The fava bean purée was a big hit. It was absolutely worth the time it took to shell the beans twice (do it while watching TV, you’ll be done in no time). I bought three pounds of fresh fava beans and ended up with two cups of purée.
The garlic and rosemary were fantastic, but they were very respectful—they didn’t overpower the wonderful fava bean flavor. If you prefer a bolder garlic punch, taste it after you blend the garlic and rosemary into the puréed beans. Instead of adding more garlic, simply mash the mixture again to release the juice of the garlic.
If you make this dish in advance, be sure to bring it to room temperature before serving, as the texture becomes starchy and crumbly during refrigeration (the creaminess comes back as the purée warms up). If you make this out of season using frozen fava beans, keep in mind that shelled and skinned fava beans weigh just over one-fourth of their fully-clothed weight. I do strongly recommend making it with fresh fava in season, however.
Originally published August 9, 2010