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Sweet taste of favas in spring

Ahh, spring: Fresh favas have arrived, and every week there are more of them at our farmers markets. When the weather is warm, they mature quickly, which means a few favas one week becomes an enormous mound the next and, before you know it, the season is over.

A fresh fava is sweet, tender, moist and green. Once it becomes at all starchy, its fleeting season is over. What's left will become dried favas, another thing entirely.

When you find yourself faced with a lot of fresh favas, one option is to freeze some of them. To do this, you need to shell and blanch them but leave them unpeeled, as the rubbery skin will protect them in the freezer. Use them within about three months; if you forget them — and I speak from experience — they will begin to absorb other flavors.

If you are inexperienced with fresh favas, a word of caution is essential and I offer it every spring. If you are of Mediterranean descent, you may lack an enzyme that is essential in digesting one of the fava bean's proteins. Without this enzyme, the protein causes favism, a severe form of anemia that, untreated, can be fatal. Once cooked, even quickly, favas are safe for anyone to enjoy. If you don't know your ancestry, consult a doctor or be safe and blanch your favas before enjoying them.

For recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives, visit Eat This Now, the column's companion blog, at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com, where you'll find recipes for bruschetta with fresh favas; spring risotto; pasta with favas, ricotta, lemon zest and green pepper; pasta with goat cheese and fresh favas and spring ragout with white polenta, along with a list of dishes so simple you don't need a recipe.

This is one of those dishes in which the final result is far more than the simple sum of the ingredients. There's an alchemy of sorts that takes place on the grill, making this a truly compelling appetizer. It's a good idea to have more than you think your guests will eat or you're likely to end up with requests for more.

Grilled Favas

Makes 3 to 6 servings

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