Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And when fresh favas show up in your CSA box for the fourth week in a row, any patient fondness you had for the quaint pastime of shelling broad beans tends to give way to a sudden need to drastically reduce the proportion of your life spent wrestling them out of their pods as compared to, say, sleeping.
So here, then, are the shelling shortcuts that turned two big bags full of favas into one smallish bowl full of beans in about half the time that it would have taken me a few days ago. I suspect these have already been discovered by many fava aficionados, but here they are in detail for the rest of us.
Shortcut #1: Speedy Shelling
Step 2: Take a pod and hold it horizontally in front of you. With your right hand (if you're right-handed), pinch the first bean (within the pod) from the right between thumb and forefinger.
Step 3: Push the bean forward with the flat of your thumb, bending the pod until it breaks open. Try to place your thumb about a third of the way down the bean, and push diagonally (forward and to the left). You want to break the pod so that a little bit of bean is already sticking out (rather than breaking it right in the middle of two beans, in which case both will be stuck inside the pod).
Step 4: Keep pushing with your thumb, and pinch the pod to squeeze the bean forward and to the left, out of the pod and into the bowl. (Warning: once you get good at this, the beans start shooting out very quickly, so aim down into the bowl if you don't want beans zinging around your kitchen.)
Step 5: Move down the pod to the next bean, and repeat.
Play around with where exactly you're pushing on each individual bean until you find a sweet spot that allows you to break the pod and push the bean out in a single quick motion. When you find it, you'll be able to do the whole pod in just a couple seconds.
Shortcut #2: Faster Peeling
Step 1: Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. Drop your shelled but still unpeeled favas in and blanch for 2 minutes or until the skins just start to turn white. Drain and run under cold water until the beans are about room temperature.
Step 2: Take each fava bean and break open the bottom of the bean (the fat end, where the skin is thickest). With your other hand, gently pinch the skin on the unbroken side, to squeeze the inner bean out through the opening you just created.
Saute your favas with olive oil, pancetta, and slivered garlic, or combine with other fresh and mild ingredients for a simple pasta or risotto. Favas remind me of fresh peas -- they seem to work best in dishes that are simple enough to complement their fresh, springy flavor without overpowering it.