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Flat fava beans are trendy and nutritious

Also known as broad beans, they contain protein, fiber and iron; some take special care

Ever notice how one oddball ingredient seems to become an overnight sensation in the food world?

For the past few years fava beans have been popping up in all the trendy New York food magazines. Pasta With Fava Beans and Spring Vegetables is a dish we devised to acquaint the rest of us with the Big Apple’s latest gourmet superstar.

Fava or broad beans are flat, nutritious legumes that contain protein, fiber and iron. Most recipes call for fresh fava beans, something that can be hard to find without a trip to a farmers market or a specialty store. Dried, frozen and canned versions are more commonly found in supermarkets.

Shopping tips: Fresh beans must be removed from the pod, then blanched and the skin removed before cooking. Cook in boiling water until tender; drain and add with the pasta.

Be sure dry fava beans are labeled blanched and skinless, as fava beans have a tough, inedible skin that must be removed.

If desired, substitute 1 cup rinsed and drained canned fava beans for cooked dry beans. Canned beans are fully cooked, so stir them in with the pasta as directed in this recipe and cook until heated through.

Can’t find favas in any form? Substitute frozen lima beans for the dried fava beans; add frozen lima beans with the asparagus, broccoli, broth and seasonings and cook as directed 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Cooking tip: For recipe testing, we used Bob’s Red Mill dried fava beans, available in health food stores or in markets that specialize in Italian foods.

Pasta With Fava Beans And Spring Vegetables

1/3 cup dry, blanched, skinless fava beans

1 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat penne, farfalle or other pasta

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 cup trimmed, fresh asparagus (about 1-inch pieces)

1 cup broccoli florets or sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/2 cup sodium-reduced chicken broth

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons minced fresh sage

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

4 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook fava beans in 1 cup water according to package directions, 40 to 45 minutes or until just tender; drain and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt; drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring 2 minutes. Add asparagus, broccoli, broth, salt and pepper. Cover and cook 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender.

Stir in sage, lemon juice, fava beans and cooked pasta; cover and cook 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through. Spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese.

Yield: 4 main-dish servings.

Nutritional information per serving: 238 calories (13 percent from fat), 4 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), 4 milligrams cholesterol, 42 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 168 milligrams sodium, 8 grams dietary fiber.