Thursday, March 3, 2011

Veggie Might: Making Friends—Fava Beans Redeemed

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

Fava beans have been haunting my dreams ever since the unfortunate Fava Bean Disaster of 2009. Every now and then, when it’s quiet and my thoughts turn to food, I find myself thinking about them and how I might redeem myself from such a fiasco.

On Sunday, I wandered into my local deli to pick up seltzer and something snacky to shove in my mouth while watching the Oscars. I aimlessly strolled the aisles until the smallish Middle Eastern foods section caught my attention. The deli owners hail from Yemen and keep two shelves at the back of the store stocked with beans and tahini.

I picked up a can of fava beans and made my way to the cash register. The clerk on duty, Khaled, who knows me and my preference for orange seltzer, looked at me with surprise when I put the can of fava beans on the counter.

“This is Arab food!” he said, smiling.

“I like Arab food,” I replied.

He laughed. “Do you know what to do?”

Jackpot! I thought.

“No, tell me.” I whipped a notebook and a pen from my bag and wrote down exactly what he said.

“Okay. Just oil, onion, garlic, tomato sauce, a half a tomato. Mix it all up. Wait. Mash beans first. But put in last.”

“Hang on a sec...,” I said. This was going to take some sorting. Then a man who’d been standing nearby chimed in. His name was Altef.

“Cook the onion and garlic. Then add the tomato sauce. Mix in the mashed beans,” he said.

“And some water,” Khaled interrupted. “Mix all together.”

“It sounds terrific.”

“Yes,” said Khaled. “Come back and tell me.”

We exchanged smiles and handshakes as the fava beans and I ventured out into the night.

Readers, you are third to know (CB was second) that I’ve finally had a fava bean victory! Like a Middle Eastern version of bean dip, this recipe makes a savory, tangy, garlicky spread for pita, crackers, or chips. Which is great for me, because chips and dip is CB’s second favorite food after pizza.

I made a couple changes to Khaled and Altef’s recipe. Since tomatoes are out of season, I substituted “tomato sauce and 1/2 tomato” for canned crushed tomatoes (what I had). A combination of diced or canned whole tomatoes and sauce would work great too. Once I combined all the ingredients per their instructions, I had a tasty bean mash that was a skosh flat. Lemon juice and parsley brightened it right up.

Except for the parsley—and the fava beans—this dish was made entirely of ingredients I had on hand. I think it would work with any mashable bean, and the stew is yummy with whole chick peas too, which I had for lunch today.

Fava Beans with Tomatoes was even better next day after the flavors had a chance to meld. CB and I had it along with the chick pea version, homemade hummus, steamed kale, and pita bread, for our own little at-home tapas meal. It would also be a welcome addition to the dip section of your next party spread. Just be sure to invite your new friends who gave you the recipe.


If you fancied this recipe, you may also enjoy:

Fava Beans with Tomatoes
Serves 6
Inspired by Khaled and Altef at the 9th Ave. Deli

1 1/2 cup fava beans, mashed
16 ounces crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

1) Drain and rinse fava beans; then mash and set aside.

2) In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 5 more minutes.

3) Mix in mashed beans with 1/4 cup water (and chopped tomato, if in season). Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring until thick. Take care; this stuff is splattery.

4) When the mixture is the consistency you like for bean dip, remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and chopped parsley.

5) Serve with warm pita bread as part of tapas spread with other small bites, like hummus, baba ghanouj, wilted greens, stewed chick peas and new friends.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, Protein, and Price per Serving
72 calories, 2g fat, 3g fiber, 4g protein, $0.42

1 1/2 cup fava beans: 273 calories, 1.5g fat, 13.5g fiber, 21g protein, $0.98
16 ounces crushed tomatoes: 82 calories, 0g fat, 4g fiber, 4g protein, $0.99
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil: 79.2 calories, 9.24g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.05
1 small onion: 20 calories, 0.1g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.25
6 cloves garlic: 24 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.07
1 teaspoon salt: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 tablespoon pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, protein, $.02
1 tablespoon lemon juice: 3 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.06
1 tablespoon parsley: 1.3 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, 0g protein, $0.07
TOTALS: 429 calories, 11g fat, 17.5g fiber, 25g protein, $2.51
PER SERVING (TOTALS/6): 72 calories, 2g fat, 3g fiber, 4g protein, $0.42

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alternakiddy said...

Sounds awesome. I love Middle Eastern food. I haven't tried favas yet but now I will! I actually just tried my spin on koshary, an Egyptian staple food. It's rice, macaroni (I used ramen because I had it, I don't recommend it), lentils, tomatoes and fried onions. The onions are the best partNeeds a bit of tweaking, more seasoning, maybe lemon and garlic in the rice, but I'm confident.

I also love tabbouleh, that's parsley, tomatoes, bulgar wheat (look for it in the Goya section, so cheap!), cucumbers, olive oil and lemon juice.

I've tried making my own hummus, but the texture is just never smooth enough...

Nicolr said...

I saw this exact dish last night on an old episode of No Reservations. This (with flatbread) is apparently a typical Egyptian breakfast. They sell it at carts in Cairo. Sounds good, I'll have to try it out!

shil said...

My dad grew up in Yemen and fava beans made frequent appearances at Sunday brunch throughout my childhood, always in the form of foule. It's a pretty common dish across the middle east and is made a little differently everywhere; my dad's recipe is ultra-simple and delicious: Cook the fava beans with some water and mash them a little (my mom cooks dried fava beans in the slow cooker, but I use the canned ones and just heat on the stove). Add salt. Divvy it out into bowls, then add lemon juice & olive oil, plus any combination of raw tomatoes, cucumber, onion, green chili, and feta cheese (I really love the hot beans with the cold veg, and make up my bowl about half and half). Serve with warm crusty bread. I usually throw herbs and/or spices into everything I cook, but foule is glorious without!

Erin S. said...

I had a fava bean incident as well. Perhaps I will give this recipe a try to see if I can make friends with the beans as well. Thanks Leigh!

Anonymous said...

I've never eaten fava beans. I'm kind of scared to thanks to Hannibal Lecter saying "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

Jenny said...

Just wanted to say I tried this, and it turned out great! I was so excited to see this recipe, as my grocery store just started carrying canned fava beans, the same brand pictured, I think. Will definitely make this again, maybe next time I get ambitious and try making my own pita!

Leigh said...

Jenny, I'm so glad it worked for you, and thanks for the report!

shil, I can't wait to try your recipe for foule. Thank you so much for sharing it with us!

Khaled was so pleased at the success of his recipe and said he has more to offer. Stay tuned to this space.

Erin, beans make excellent friends.