As was probably evident from my last post, I sometimes like to take shortcuts in the kitchen. But mandolines can only get you so far. There are certain culinary tasks that are unavoidably time-consuming and unabashedly boring. And unless you have a small army of prep cooks, monkeys, robots, or children at your disposal, there’s no getting around such chores.
Take for instance, the labor-intensive act of shucking fava beans.
Ah, yes, fava beans–the beans so nice, you need to shell ’em twice. Their big green pods are picture-perfect underneath the shade of a farmer’s market stall–an emerald harbinger welcoming the start of warm, sunny weather. But as soon as you bring home your pile of favas and dump the green pods out onto your kitchen counter, your once-cheery mood dips a bit when you realize you have to shell all those mother-effing beans.
Although they look like string beans on horse ‘roids, there’s more to shelling fava beans than just zipping open their giant pods and plucking out each bean. After liberating beans from pod, you then have to go back and rip off each bean’s face and mohawk to finally expose the inner core of the legendary legume.
Yeah, faces and mohawks. You didn’t know fava beans had faces and mohawks? See for yourself…
Fava beans are so punk rock.
I don’t usually take to drawing on my food with a sharpie, but the mind wanders a bit after rummaging through a hill o’ beans. After first removing the fava beans from their outer pods, quickly blanching the beans in boiling water for a minute or two, and then shocking them in an ice batch, makes peeling off their faces and mohawks, er, I mean waxy outer covers, a bit easier.
You could technically peel off the outer skin of fava beans without blanching them, but I think blanching does help quite a bit.
Yes, fava beans are a pain in the ass to prepare, but to me, their buttery, juuuust barely bitter flavor is worth all the work. What to do with Fava Beans?
Well, for one, you could throw some favas into your favorite Pinakbet recipe, which isn’t much of a stretch considering that my grandmother throws lima beans into her pinakbet. You could also do the whole liver and chianti thing by adding some fava beans to a pot of Caldereta. Or you could do what I did for this go around and add some fava beans to a pan of Ginisang Upo at Hipon (sauteed white squash and shrimp).
Sauteed White Squash and Shrimp is another one of my favorites. White squash generally has a very mild flavor, but I love it in this dish. You can find white squash (labeled as Upo) at the Asian market.
The way my mother makes this dish, it’s generally quick-cooking as she just quickly sautees the aforementioned veggies in a big pan and then adds head-on shrimp at the end. As much as I love this dish, I always hate peeling the shrimp at the table–it’s something I’d rather do beforehand and save the diner from doing all the work come dinnertime.
And since I already spent most of my afternoon shelling beans, I figured I’d go for the gold and shell some shrimp and make some shrimp stock. Yes, I have no life. But I did save a bit of time by actually blanching the fava beans in the shrimp stock.
I add just a bit of shrimp stock to the saute pan towards the end of cooking, but keep in mind that the tomatoes and squash in this recipe will also provide some additional liquid. Since I serve this dish with steamed rice, I tend to like it soupier than other people do, so add as much or as little shrimp stock as you would like.
If you can’t find fava beans, by all means make this dish without them as that is how it is traditionally made. But I think the favas add a nice difference in texture and flavor to the finished product.
Sautéed White Squash with Shrimp and Fava Beans
1 lb. shrimp, with heads and shells
6 cups water
1 lb. fresh fava beans, shelled
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 lb. white squash (Upo squash), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick dice
1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus more to taste
To make the shrimp stock: peel and de-vein the shrimp, reserving the shrimp heads and shells. Cover the peeled shrimp and refrigerate until ready to cook. Toss the shrimp heads and shells into a large pot, cover with the 6 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Strain the stock through a sieve to remove and discard shrimp heads and shells. Return strained stock to the pot and bring back to a boil.
Drop the shelled fava beans into the boiling shrimp stock and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove fava beans from stock and place in an ice bath. Drain the fava beans, break the outer skin of the beans and squeeze them out of their skins. Set beans aside.
Heat the oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add the tomatoes, squash, fish sauce, and fava beans to the pan and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium, cover pan, and let cook for 3 minutes. Add the reserved shrimp and ladle some shrimp stock (up to a cup) into the pan and simmer until the shrimp is cooked through and the fava beans are done to your liking (about 5 more minutes for al dente beans). Taste and season with additional fish sauce if needed. Serve over steamed rice.
Note: You can freeze any unused shrimp stock for later use.