Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

Fava-lous

Written by Amanda Chantal Bacon
  Active Image                                     The fava bean. I am wild for this elegant protein-packed bean. I knew the Italians felt the same way, but what I recently discovered while trekking through the Middle East is that Lebanon is wild for them, as well. Fava beans were one of the first cultivated plants, and the only bean the Europeans ate until they reached the Americas. Fava, or foul mudammas in Arabic, is used every way possible east of Greece. I would love to claim to be fava’s first number one fan, but I’ve got a long line of predecessors.
{multithumb resize=1 full_width=600 full_height=600}
Photo by Amanda Chantal Bacon  
 
The fava bean. I am wild for this elegant protein-packed bean. I knew the Italians felt the same  way, but what I recently discovered while trekking through the Middle East is that Lebanon is wild for them, as well. Fava beans were one of the first cultivated plants, and the only bean the Europeans ate until they reached the Americas. Fava, or foul mudammas in Arabic, is used every way possible east of Greece. I would love to claim to be fava’s first number one fan, but I’ve got a long line of predecessors.

I left Los Angeles with an obsessive craving to taste all the regional-specific, Middle Eastern foods I could. The goal was to return with a knack for Near Eastern flavor and technique, mix this into my repertoire, and apply to my home’s local fare.

The perfect example of imparting new grace on old favorites is Fava Bean Mash-Up. It’s inspired by one of my southern Lebanese street food favorites (whole foul beans sprinkled with ground cumin and served with big wedges of lemon), but I’ve taken it home and off the streets to share it, all mashed up, with you.

This fava mash-up is easy to make and so good for you. Favas can be very social. Removing them from their furry pods is a fun Sunday activity with friends, or can be very Zen-like on your own.

You can put this mash-up on toast points, have it with a poached egg, next to burrata (fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream), alongside artichokes and mushrooms, with whitefish like halibut, or with lamb. One of my favorite ways to share this treat is by spooning it into beautiful glasses, garnishing with mint, feta, pine nuts, and sticking a spoon in it. This is an easy, deliciously wholesome way to taste a little bit of Lebanon.
 
FAVA BEAN MASH-UP 
Serves two for a meal, and six if used as an appetizer

What you will need:

2 pounds fresh, organic fava beans (much better fresh, but you can find organic frozen favas; you will only need 3/4 pounds if shelled)
½ cup olive oil
1 large, organic shallot, diced
1 1/2 arbol chiles (or any dried, whole chili you want to use), broken by hand
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds, ground
1⁄4 cup water
1 large, organic lemon, cut in half
1⁄2 cup mint, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
garnish options: crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts, chopped mint

1. Remove the beans from their pods. Tear open the pod at the top and then continue to open along its spine. Keep the shelled beans in a separate bowl. While you do this, boil some water in a pot.

2. Favas need their outer membrane removed as well, so prepare a bowl full of ice. To remove the membranes, plunge them into the boiling water for one minute, and then put them into ice water immediately to stop the cooking. As you remove the membranes, you may begin the cooking process.

3. Slowly heat the olive oil, on low heat, in the bottom of a pot. Add the chiles (as they will infuse the oil as you chop) and all the while, chop and mince the shallot and garlic.

4. Add the shallot to the pot with a couple pinches of salt. Cook on medium heat until it becomes translucent.

5. Add garlic, cumin, and a couple grinds of black pepper to the pot. Give this mixture some nice stirs with a wooden spoon until it becomes very aromatic. You don’t need to look for any real color on the garlic.

6. Add your cleaned fava beans and coat with the fragrant oil, occasionally stirring until the beans are really soft (about 10 minutes). Keep your water close by, and if beans begin to feel dry or stick to the bottom of the pot, add splashes of water.

7. Using your wooden spoon or a potato masher, mash the beans until they form a chunky paste. Add more water or more olive oil until you get the consistency and spreadability you desire.

8. Season the pot with salt and pepper to your liking. Remove from the heat, and while the mash-up is still warm, add your chopped mint and lemon juice.

9. Your mash is done. Here’s where you decide what to do with it and what to garnish it with, or in my case, eat half of it with your wooden spoon!

Share this post