I’ve been eating a lot of salads lately, because salads seem to be synonymous with summer (see Rhubarb Mint Salad, Mayo-Free Radish Mint Pasta Salad, Spicy Korean Radish Salad and Miso Potato Salad). Fresh vegetables and minimal time in front of a hot stove are a perfect way to spend a summer evening, and this recipe began with a vegetable I had never used before. I have never seen fresh fava beans before I stumbled upon them at the local grocery store and, feeling adventurous, I got them with no idea of how to cook them or what I would use them for. They sat in my fridge for a while as I made my way through more familiar vegetables. Eventually I decided I needed to cook them up, or risk watching them rot (and I couldn’t have that kind of lazy food waste on my hands).
I decided to cook them quickly, taste them, and go from there. After a quick blanch I opened the pods and picked off them membranes to get to the beans inside. They reminded me of the edamame nuggets sold at Trader Joe’s, which made me know I wanted to pair it with a soy sauce. The other ingredient that needed to be used was a pomegranate I had found at Boston’s Haymarket- at two for $3 I couldn’t pass it up- so I decided to work the fava beans and the pomegranate in a dish together. To marry the two flavors, I used soy sauce (to compliment the beans) and lime (to compliment the pomegranate) and developed a sort of vinaigrette with ginger.
The most time consuming part of this process is cleaning the pomegranate. When I was in college I had a friend who would go home for the weekend, and her mother would send her home with a huge Tupperware full of perfect, clean pomegranate seeds ready to be eaten. And while I benefitted from Mama Chang’s fruit prepping skills back then, I now have had to learn for myself.
The most effective way I’ve found to clean a pomegranate is underwater- open up the fruit and gently brush the seeds from the rind. This does two things- firstly, while the rind and membrane of a pomegranate float, the seeds will sink making it easy to skim the parts you don’t want off the top and leaving you with just the seeds. Secondly, if like me you have longer fingernails, you will occasionally cause a seed to burst spitting juice on your clothing. If the fruit is underwater, the juice will instead gently and harmlessly dissipate.
After the seeds are removed, mix them with the fava beans and some onions, peppers and garlic scapes (you can substitute these for garlic cloves, if needed). Toss in the lime and soy vinegrette and either serve immediately or chill.
Fava Bean and Pomegranate Salad
- 1.5 lbs of fresh fava beans in the shells (this ends up being about a cup of the actual beans)
- 1 pomegranate
- ½ a medium onion
- 9 mini bell peppers in assorted colors, or one or two regularly sized ones
- 3 garlic scapes, or 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 small limes
- 1 half inch of fresh ginger, about 1 TBSP when minced
- 1 tsp agave or other sweetener
- 1 TBSP soy sauce
- 1 TBSP olive oil
1. Put on a large pot of water to boil. While it is heating up, dice the onion and bell pepper. Mince the garlic scapes or garlic and open the pomegranate (the easiest way to remove all the seeds from the rind and membrane is to first submerge the pomegranate in a bowl of water, and to gently brush the seeds out with your fingers). Place the onion, pepper, garlic and pomegranate in a large serving bowl.
2. When the water is boiling, add the fava beans in the pods. Allow the beans to cook for about 3 or 4 minutes, before draining the water and running them under cool water (this will both stop the cooking and make them easier to handle).
3. Open each pod and remove the beans inside. Use your fingers to pinch off the white membrane, exposing the green bean inside. Rub the bean between your thumb and index finger to easily split in half and add to the bowl with the rest of the salad.
4. Juice the limes and mince the ginger. Combine in a small bowl with the agave, soy sauce and oil. Whisk and pour over the salad. Toss to cover all of the salad with the dressing, and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.