Fava beans—also known as Windsor or broad beans—were the beans of the Old World before the European discovery of America. Our earliest records of gardening in the Lowcountry include favas—and they stayed popular for a long, long time. They are easy to grow, and they are absolutely delicious—at once buttery and fresh on the palate—but they are a pain to prepare. A half bushel of large, mature pods yields but a few cups of beans—and then they too must be shelled of their bitter outer layer. When I lived in Italy, we ate fresh young unpeeled favas raw with delicate salami from Sant’Olcese, but you are not likely to find early favas in this country. In Mediterranean countries a puree of favas is a traditional accompaniment with roast meats—and you can do that with dried or canned beans available in certain markets. But if you can get fresh favas in the height of summer, try this old Lowcountry dish of the beans warmed with onions and tomatoes.
Shell the beans and bring a pot of water large enough to hold them to a boil. Add the beans, return to the boil, and turn off the heat. When the water has cooled, you should be able to slit the bitter outer skin with a fingernail and remove the delicious inner bean.
When all of the beans are extracted, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the chopped onion, cooking until it becomes transparent, about 5 minutes. Then add the beans, tomatoes, herbs, and salt and pepper. Cook very slowly, uncovered, just to heat the vegetables through. You do not want them to be cooked but merely warmed. Adjust the seasoning with a little vinegar or lemon juice before serving.
© 1992 All rights reserved. Published by UNC Press.