Today's tip

When you buy fava beans, look for sound pods with discoloration, and feel free to make sure they are filled with firm, fully developed beans.

Empty or partially filled pods, or pods that contain tiny beans, mean a lot of wasted labor and you may find yourself with fewer beans than you need for a specific recipe. Before you begin to shell the beans, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Snap the stem of each pod and use it to pull off the string that runs the length of the pod along the steam. Open the pod along this steam, and brush the beans into a bowl. Add the beans to the boiling water, and cook them just until you can see a dark spot in the center of the bean’s skin, about 3 minutes. Drain the beans, and refresh them with cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Drain them well. With a paring knife, pull off the dark, crescent shaped marking at one end of each bean. Squeeze the bean out through this opening. Discard the shell. The favas are now ready to eat, or to use in a recipe. It takes about 1 1/4 pounds of fresh favas in the pod to yield a half-pound shelled. Sometimes you will find shelled fava beans in the market. They are just as good, but might be a bit more expensive. You will still need to blanch the beans and peel off the skin.