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Two Fava Bean Dishes for Spring

Note: Makini Howell will talk about her journey and new book at Powell's City of Books on April 27 at 4 p.m.

Grains, grains, grains. I have fallen in love with grain bowls and it shows here. Faro and Israeli couscous combined make for a nutty, hearty, but somehow still light, dish. The grape almond dressing makes this dish an amazing accompaniment for anything you whip up for dinner, or it's simply great on its own. Feel free to mix and match any veggie you have in your fridge to make this a truly seasonal salad. The grown-up charred fava bean salad is everything late spring needs. It makes use of early plums and sweetens them up a bit on the gill. The fennel adds an aromatic flavor burst that is very unexpected — and of course the charred flavor and protein-packed beans make it simply delicious.

Miner's Lettuce and Fava Bean Bowl with Faro and Toasted Israeli Couscous

This tasty seasonal bridge salad is rich, nutty, and protein-packed.

Serves 2 to 4

2 cups shelled unpeeled fava beans (about 2 pounds whole pods)
½ cup Israeli couscous
½ cup uncooked farro
½ cup shaved red cabbage
2 large handfuls of fresh miner's lettuce
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons ribboned fresh basil (optional)
Grape Almond Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

To get to the heart of the fava, first take the fava beans out of the pods (it's sort of like how you would shell a pea). Bring 4 to 5 quarts of water to a boil; add enough salt to make it taste as salty as the sea. Drop the beans in and blanch them for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Scoop the fava beans out with a strainer and run under cold water until cool to the touch. Use your fingers to squeeze and pop the inner bean out of its shell.

It may be helpful to Google "shelling fava beans" if you have never done it before.

Keep the same water. While you're waiting for the pot to boil again, in a medium skillet over medium heat, toast the couscous, stirring often, until golden-brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Toss the toasted couscous into the boiling water and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Scoop couscous out of water with a strainer and rinse under cold running water until cool. Toss the couscous into a large mixing bowl with the cooked fava beans.

In that same large pot, drop in the farro, stir, and get water to a steady, vigorous simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook 30 to 45 minutes, or until tender. Drain the farro in a strainer. Run cold water over until cool and add to bowl with fava beans and Israeli couscous. Toss in cabbage, lettuce, parsley, and basil. Toss with Grape Almond Vinaigrette and serve.

Grape Almond Vinaigrette
½ cup sliced almonds
⅔ cup white grape juice
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 teaspoon mixed salt and pepper
⅔ cup olive oil

Combine the almonds, grape juice, vinegar, mint, and salt and pepper in a food processor and blend. While processor is running, slowly pour oil in to emulsify the dressing.

Charred Fava Beans with Marigolds, Fresh Plums, and Grilled Fennel

This salad is beautiful, and the grown-up dressing made from plum sake makes it perfect for early spring entertaining.

Serves 6

½ fresh fennel bulb
1 pound fava beans
1 large handful of miner's lettuce
1 small handful of marigolds or edible flowers
1 plum, sliced into ¼-inch wedges
Dressing (recipe follows)

Fava beans have so many varied uses, I decided to fire up the grill and try them whole, pod and all.

Heat an outside grill to high. Slice fennel bulb into ¼- to ½-inch wedges. Grab a mixing bowl, then wash fava bean pods and place them in the bowl along with fennel wedges. Toss them with 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil — make sure to coat the pods and the fennel. Separate out fava pods and place favas on the grill and char over heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, turning occasionally, until softened and blackened in spots. When the beans start emerging from the pod, they're ready.

Turn the grill down and wipe black spots off (make sure it's clean and oiled). Put the fennel on the grill, cover, and turn down to medium-low heat. Grill each side of the bulb wedges for about 5 minutes (depending on toughness of bulb). The fennel wedges will become soft and tender. If you want to retain a crunch in your fennel, use a young fennel bulb and leave on the grill just long enough to mark, but not completely cook, wedges, about 2 to 3 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, flowers, plums, fennel, and favas. Toss with dressing and serve.

½ cup plum sake
½ cup olive canola oil blend
½ teaspoon Pernod (anise-flavored liqueur)
3 teaspoons fennel fronds
2 teaspoons minced shallots
1 teaspoon mixed salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and whisk in small bowl.

÷ ÷ ÷

Makini Howell is the owner of Seattle's Plum Bistro and author of the new book Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle's Plum Bistro. She is a lifelong vegan who believes that what is good for the individual will be good for the planet, and that this is nowhere more evident than in the diet we choose. Howell is the creator of Plum Restaurants, a group of restaurants that answer the need for a plant-based meal free of harmful chemicals.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from... Used Hardcover $21.00

Makini Howell is the author of Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle's Plum Bistro

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