Asparagus and fava beans – two of the quintessential spring vegetables and two that pair together quite well. Fava beans are only in season very briefly so if you happen to see them at your local grocery store or farmer’s market, I recommend you snap them up immediately as they may not be there the following week. They’re somewhat labor intensive to prepare, but I think they’re quite worth the extra effort.
I like to think of white asparagus as regular asparagus’s vampire cousin! It’s grown completely in the dark which prevents the development of chlorophyll – hence it’s ghostly white appearance. White asparagus has a milder, sweeter flavor than its green relative, and I think it looks just so striking when plated with the vibrant green fava beans. Unlike green asparagus however, it does have a thicker “woodier” skin that you’ll want to peel off before steaming. You can, of course, substitute green (or purple!) asparagus for the white in this recipe if you can’t find it.
White Asparagus & Fava Beans with Toasted Almonds, Lemon Zest, and Mint
- 1 bunch white asparagus
- 1 pound fava beans in shell
- 1/4 cup chopped almonds
- 10 leaves fresh mint, chiffonade or finely chop
- 1 lemon
- flaked sea salt
- high quality olive oil
Prepare the fava beans
- First remove the beans from their large, outer husks. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to pop one side off and then split the husk down the middle, like shelling peas.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil. While water is heating up, prepare an ice bath for the favas. Add the shelled fava beans to the boiling water and cook for 90 seconds, before draining the water and adding beans immediately to the ice bath to cool and help seal in their gorgeous bright green coloring.
- The final step for preparing the fava beans is to remove their thin outer husk. This part is edible, but they taste much better and creamier without it. To do this, you should be able to pinch one end and pop out the inside, brighter green bean. If it doesn’t want to come out, I simply cut a tiny tear on one side to make it easier to slip out. Discard the outer husk, and the inner bean is ready to eat like this or to be added to recipes!
Prepare the asparagus
- First cut about 1 inch off the bottom of each stalk. White asparagus has a tougher outside than its green relative, so you’ll want to carefully peel each stalk, starting from right below the bud. Asparagus is fragile, so I recommend laying it against a cutting board or plate while peeling, rather than holding in the air.
- Add asparagus to a steamer pot or pan. Prepare a pot with about 1 inch boiling water and add the steamer pot to it, then cover with a lid and steam for about 6 minutes, or until asparagus is fork tender but still has a slight crunch.
How to toast almonds
- There are two easy methods to toast almonds – in the oven, or on the stovetop.
- For the oven method, simply heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spread your chopped almonds out evenly in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 3-4 minutes, then check them and shake the pan to toss the almonds. After that, you’ll want to check them every minute until they reach a desired light golden brown.
- For the stovetop method, simply heat a small pan over medium-high heat before adding the almonds to the pan. Stir every couple minutes until they reach their toasted golden brown coloring.
Assembling the final dish
- Using a large serving platter, place asparagus side by side, no more than 2 layers. Spoon fava beans across the top.
- Garnish with the toasted almonds, chiffonaded mint, and zest from one lemon. Drizzle the whole dish with high quality olive oil, and sprinkle with good flake sea salt.