Recipe: Fresh Fava Beans (or Soybeans or Peas) with Pecorino or Parmigiano

Shucking and peeling fava beans is laborious, but once prepped, they need only the barest embellishment: flavorful extra-virgin olive oil and shavings of a youngish sheep's milk cheese.

Serves 4

    • 3 pounds fresh fava beans
    • 1 garlic clove, halved (optional)
    • pinch of salt
    • really good extra virgin olive oil

    • ½ lemon

    • freshly ground pepper to taste

    • 2 or 3 ounces youngish sheep's milk cheese like Pecorino or Manchego (OR Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Prep the fava beans:
Use your thumb to break open the spongy pods along the seam and dislodge the beans inside. Each bean has a thin membrane that can easily removed if you first loosen the skins by blanching them. Cook the beans in rapidly boiling water for a minute to a minute and a half depending on the size. Drain the beans and plunge them into ice cold water to stop the cooking. Use your thumbnail to break open the skin at one end and peel it back. Press the bean gently and the bean will pop right out. Discard the skins. Collect the beans in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (You should have about two cups of beans.)

Finish the dish:
Just before serving, set out four shallow soup bowls (if you like, you can rub the bowls first with a cut clove of garlic to give the barest perfume to the favas). Arrange about a half cup of the beans in each bowl. Sprinkle lightly with salt and drizzle with olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice. Shave the cheese over each with a vegetable peeler or mandoline and grind over some pepper. (If the cheese is young and soft, you can cut it into small fava-size dice.) Eat with large soup spoons.

To read Sally's piece about loving to eat and cook fava beans, click here.

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Sally Schneider writes The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog about improvising as a daily practice. Her cookbook The Improvisational Cook is now out in paperback. More

Sally Schneider is the founder of The Improvised Life, a lifestyle blog that inspires you to devise, invent, create, make it up as you go along, from design and cooking to cultivating the creative spirit. It's been called a "zeitgeist-perfect website." She is a regular contributor to public radio's The Splendid Table and the author of the best-selling cookbooks The Improvisational Cook and A New Way to Cook, which was recently named one of the best books of the decade by The Guardian. She has won numerous awards, including four James Beard awards, for her books and magazine writing.

Sally has worked as a journalist, editor, stylist, lecturer, restaurant chef, teacher, and small-space consultant, and once wrangled 600 live snails for the photographer Irving Penn. Her varied work has been the laboratory for the themes she writes and lectures about: improvising as an essential operating principle; cultivating resourcefulness and your inner artist; design, style, and food; and anything that is cost-effective, resourceful, and outside the box.

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