Fresh fava beans take a bit of work to prepare, but no other bean matches their nutty flavor and delicate, buttery texture. Dried fava beans — both with and without skins — are a little easier to prepare, but their musky flavor and dense texture are dramatically different from the fresh variety.
When preparing fresh fava beans, you need a lot of pods. NPR food commentator Bonny Wolf recommends 5 pounds of pods for 4 servings. For boiling and steaming, you will first need to shell the beans. Cut the edges off, and shell them the way you would a green pea. You may need to remove the thick string holding the pod together. The beans will be covered in a leathery or waxy cover that you must also remove. You can do this by boiling or blanching. If you are roasting the beans, you need only to remove the tough outer string of the pod.
To boil shelled fava beans, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the beans and cook for 2 to 5 minutes, or until just tender. You can eat these beans as is or use in a recipe. Simply add butter, salt and herbs, or look for more elaborate recipes, including sautéed dishes, salads and purees. If you are using dried fava beans, boiling is the only way to cook them. If the dried beans have their skins, soak them for eight hours, and then boil for 30 to 50 minutes, or until tender. Next, cool and peel them. Dried, skinless beans can simply be boiled.
To steam fresh fava beans, you need to blanch them first. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with water and ice. Place the beans in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain them and put them in the ice water to halt cooking. When they are cool, peel them. Steam them in a steamer until just tender. Also look for recipes that steam the peeled fava beans with other ingredients. Otherwise, they are ready to use as is or in a recipe.
If all this shucking, boiling and peeling sound like too much work, try roasting your fresh fava beans. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Wash the pods and make sure to remove any dirt, sand or grit. Remove as much of the thick string on the pod as you can. Coat the favas in oil, sprinkle them with salt and roast them for 20 to 30 minutes in a single layer, flipping halfway through cooking. The pods will brown or char, and the beans will steam inside. When you nibble on the skins, the beans should easily pop out.