Beans are an inexpensive and lean source of protein, fiber and micronutrients. But it's easy to fall into a bean rut. White beans, black beans, garbanzo beans and fresh green beans easily make their way to the table relatively frequently.
Consider widening your bean circle and including fava beans, also known as broad beans (perhaps more commonly so, thanks to a Silence of the Lambs-induced PR problem). Fava beans are relatively large and flat irregularly shaped beans that have a creamy, almost buttery taste. They are available in the grocery store frozen, fresh, canned, dried or (my favorite) cooked and vacuum-packed on the packaged vegetable shelf. A quarter cup of fava beans has about 125 calories and delivers about 10 grams each of protein and fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals, particularly magnesium and iron.
The mild flavor and pleasant nonmealy texture mean the fava bean is perfect for swapping into almost any of your favorite bean recipes. Salads, stews and soups all get a nice facelift from bringing in a new bean. This Fava Bean Tabbouleh recipe replaces classic bulgur wheat with fava beans, and the result is a fresh, herbaceous side dish that is hearty enough to work as a meat-free main dish.
The salad is sturdy enough to survive brown-bagging or picnicking, or simply an extra day in the fridge if you have leftovers. Grabbing a box of cooked fava beans at the market turns this dish into convenience food you can feel great about.
Food Network star Melissa d'Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook "Supermarket Healthy."