Sephardic Fresh Fava Beans with Onions and Mint

Unlike green/string beans, fava beans are more familiar to most in their dried form. They are also called broad beans for a reason, as they are substantially broader and bigger than green beans. Another difference between the two is that, unlike green beans, that can be found in their fresh form year round, fava beans’ season is fairly short, and happens exactly now, until around mid-May. If you want to enjoy this unique type of beans, look for them in vegetable stores and markets that specialize in Mediterranean ingredients.
The young and tender fava beans have a very different texture and flavor than fresh green beans, and are a seasonal delight. They can be cooked whole, shells included. However, as the very young beans are not easy to find, you can chose to do what I’ve done here, and use only part of the shells, to still get their unique flavor.
Since their season is around Passover, they are part of the Seder dinner in many Sephardic households, either on their own, as shown here, cooked with fresh artichokes, or with lamb or beef. This light and fresh dish is typical of the way vegetables are cooked in the Sephardic cuisine, where the vegetables flavors are not masked by too many spices. The dish, called “Avas Frescas” (i.e. fresh beans) in Ladino, can be served warm, as a side dish, or cold, as part of a “Meze” appetizer table. Try it and enjoy.

Notes:
* Shelling the beans, and cleaning the shells, can cause your finger to discolor. Rubbing them with some fresh lemon will help in removing the stains.
* If you can’t find fresh fava beans, frozen ones can be used instead. Just bear in mind that, as they do not  contain the shells, the dish will be a bit different.
* For more information about Sephardic cuisine, click HERE. For more Sephardic recipes, click HERE.

Makes: 4
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 lbs (450 grams) fresh fava beans (see notes)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, small diced
1½ cups water
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
A handful of fresh mint leaves

1. To string the beans: hold one tip of the pod, and twist it towards the seam, pulling away the tough fiber, then remove the tip on the other side of the bean. Cut the small pods with the beans in, or shell the larger ones and cut the shell into large chunks.

2. In a medium pot, over medium-high heat, lightly sauté the onion, just until it’s soft and translucent. Add the water, lemon juice, sugar and salt and bring to a boil. Add the cleaned beans and shells, and the mint, and bring to a boil.

3. Partially cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes. Uncover the pot and cook for another 10 minutes, until the beans and shells are tender. Serve warm or cold.

 

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