Friday, June 24, 2011

Fava on Friday

Debbie over at "I'm Mad and I Eat" blog started me thinking about favas with a post on roasted fava beans. I've been resisting the call of fava because they are a bit of work to peel but the final results are delicious. 

Her series of posts, plus the comments,  were very interesting since fava beans are part of my Lebanese heritage. I'm a "real American" of the Heinz' 57 Varieties type but part of the mixture is Lebanese. My grandfather came from Lebanon in 1893 and thank heavens for that. I don't fancy being married off to some cousin at the age of 12 or 13, wearing a veil all my life and being subjected to male domination. I've had enough difficulty with that in the good old U.S. of A.

But I do like the food.
I can't say that I "boil" my fava beans when I cook the dish (called ful medmes in the the Middle East).  I usually bake them in a low oven (great for a cold day). There are countless ways of cooking them, depending on what is available, but the basic recipe remains the same. 

Put the dried fava beans in a big pot and soak in water for 8 to 24 hours. Then add the onion, tomatoes, a bit of salt and a few tablespoons of dried red lentils. It is simmered over very low heat all night, covered so the beans don't discolor. The stew is usually eaten in the morning for breakfast, although Egyptians will eat it any time of the day. Salt to taste since it's not salted when cooking.

I've had it garlic sauce; fūl husniyya, with hard-boiled eggs and a baked béchamel sauce; and the flavorful fūl bi'l-basturma wa'l-bayd, with basturma (dried and spiced beef) and fried egg. Fūl with a drizzle of water buffalo samna (clarified butter), a pinch of salt, flatbread, and scallions on the side was also very good. I've also added (as a side dish), spiced yogurt, tahina and humus hummus with a big pile of chopped herbs.

Now, that's probably more than you want to know about another way of cooking fava beans. But one more thing- the soup is delicious cold as well. I drain off some of the liquid, mix the beans with red onion, parsley, mint, cilantro and add a lemon vinaigrette dressing. Since I am a long time Californian (born here, really), I have been known to add chilies or Chinese hot chili paste and serve it with pita bread, tortillas or some other kind of flat bread. I've also substituted edamame beans which have a different taste, are probably healthier but are equally delicious. 

Some parts of the recipes and info (Arab names) are from Clifford Wright (Mediterranean Cooking) and Claudia Rodden. I'm a dump here, dump there, pinch etc. kind of cook and felt that there should slightly more specific instructions. But only slightly. 

It turns out that they also serve a variation in Ethiopia:

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