I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear “fava beans,” I think about the iconic line from The Silence of the Lambs. You know, which one I’m talking about? “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” Few people realize that author of the book Thomas Harris didn’t put this line in the book just because it sounded catchy. Fava beans, red wine and liver are on the list of things that people with depression and/or personality disorders (like Hannibal Lecter) who take MAIOs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) can not have. MAIOs block an enzyme called monoamine oxidase, which breaks down excess tyramine (an amino acid) in the body. Eating high tyramine foods like fava beans means that tyramine can quickly reach dangerous level and can prove fatal. The fact that Hannibal Lecter could enjoy fava beans with liver and Chianti without ill effects was indication that he wasn’t taking his meds.
For those of us who don’t have to worry about tyramine, fava beans is a boon. It’s low in calories, high in protein and dietary fiber. The list of it’s benefits is pretty long. Among other things it’s good for nervous system function, energy metabolism, strong bones, healthy blood pressure, and for red blood cell formation.
I like fava beans because they are easy. I cook a pound on Sunday and I can do five different things with them during the week. Three of my favorite things to do with them are fava bean dip, fava bean salad and fava bean soup. This recipe either comes from the back of the fava bean package or from my Easy Beans cookbook. I don’t have either one handy right now, so I can’t check.
I buy shelled fava beans, then all I have to do is soak them overnight and boil them the next day.
1. Wash beans.
2. Soak overnight in a few inches of water.
3. Rinse and place in a saucepan with fresh, cold water (2 inches of water above bean line).
4. Bring to a boil in a pot with a lid. Once boiling, reduce to simmer. Tilt the lid slightly for steam to escape. It should take 40-50 minutes. You know your beans are ready when they are soft.
1. Chop cilantro, mint, onion and green onion.
2. Turn on a food processor. With the machine running, drop in the garlic, cilantro, mint, onion and green onion and process until minced. Add beans, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, thyme, salt and pepper.
5. You can sprinkle some fresh cilantro on top, but my kids won’t allow it.
It is especially delicious eaten al fresco. But it’s good year round!