The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. This series continues with the country of Egypt.
The Arab Republic of Egypt is located in the northeastern region of the African continent, bordering both the Mediterranean and Red Seas. The climate is arid and dry and most of the country receives less than one inch of rainfall each year. However, Egypt’s northern coastline can get up to eight inches of rainfall each year and the year-round temperatures are cooler here than inland. Egypt has no forests and only 2 percent of the land is arable (land that can be farmed).
The well-known Nile River, the longest river in the world, runs north and south through eastern Egypt and empties into the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile River Valley, which includes the capital city of Cairo, is the most fertile land in Egypt. Approximately 95 percent of the country’s population lives alongside the Nile River.
Egyptian cuisine is characterized by dishes such as stewed fava beans; lentils and pasta and okra stew. Egyptian cuisine shares similarities with other Mediterranean countries, such as rice-stuffed vegetables, grape leaves, shawarma, kebabs and kofta. The cuisine most often utilizes legumes, vegetables and fruits from Egypt’s rich Nile valley and delta. Although entrees in Alexandria and the coast of Egypt tend to use a great deal of fish and other seafood, the Egyptian cuisine is based on foods that grow in the ground. Meat has been very expensive for most Egyptians throughout history, so a great number of vegetarian dishes have been developed.
Easy access to various spices due to Egypt’s many seaports has, throughout the years, left its mark on Egyptian cuisine. Cumin is the most commonly used spice. Other common spices include coriander, cardamom, chili, aniseed, bay leaves, dill, parsley, ginger, cinnamon, mint and cloves.
Egyptians are known to use lots of garlic and onions in their everyday dishes. Fresh garlic mashed with other herbs is used in a spicy tomato salad and also in stuffed eggplant. Garlic fried with coriander is added to soup and sometimes to chicken or rabbit. Fried onions can also be a popular addition.
When meats are on the Egyptian table, they are usually rabbit, pigeon, chicken or duck. These are often boiled to make a broth for stews and soups and the meat is served separately. Lamb and beef are the most common meats used for grilling.
The local bread is a form of hearty, thick, gluten-rich pita bread called eish baladi. This bread is made from a simple recipe that forms the backbone of the Egyptian cuisine. It is consumed at almost all Egyptian meals; a working-class or rural Egyptian meal might consist of little more than bread and beans.
Although many rural people still make their own cheese, notably the fermented mish, mass-produced cheeses are becoming more common. Cheese is often served with breakfast, it is included in several traditional dishes, and even in some desserts.
Despite the country’s dry climate, Egypt grows a variety of fresh fruits. Mohz (bananas), balah (dates), burtu’aan (oranges), battiikh (melon), khukh (peaches), berkuk (plums) and ‘anub (grapes) are grown.
Tea is the national drink in Egypt, followed only distantly by coffee, prepared using the Turkish method. Egyptian tea is uniformly black and sour and is generally served in a glass, sometimes with milk. Tea packed and sold in Egypt is almost exclusively imported from Kenya and Sri Lanka. Egyptian tea comes in two varieties, kushari and sa‘idi. Vendors also sell a variety of asiir (fresh-squeezed juices) made from fruits like banana, guava, mango, pomegranate, strawberry, from sugar cane, and even hibiscus flowers.
Egyptian desserts resemble other Eastern Mediterranean desserts. Basbousa is a dessert made from semolina and soaked in syrup. It is usually topped with almonds and cut vertically into pieces, so that each piece has a diamond shape. Baqlawa is a sweet dish made from many layers of phyllo pastry with an assortment of nuts and soaked in a sweet syrup. Ghuriyiba is a sweet biscuit made with sugar, flour and liberal quantities of butter, similar to shortbread. It can be topped with roasted almonds or black cardamom pods.
Dining customs vary throughout the country and between different religions. When invited to be a guest in an Egyptian household, it is polite for guests to bring a small gift to the host, such as flowers or chocolate, to show their appreciation for the meal. Before dinner, cocktails (usually nonalcoholic) are frequently served. This is a time for socializing and becoming acquainted. Mezze (salads and dips) would also be served at this time. When dinner is ready, usually between 9 P.M. and 10 P.M. , guests seat themselves and food is placed in the middle of the table. Bread will almost always accompany meals, which may include vegetables, rice dishes, soups and meat dishes. Following dinner, guests will move into another room and enjoy coffee or mint tea. Guests should always compliment the cook.
Although Ramadan is a month of fasting for Muslims in Egypt, it is usually a time when Egyptians pay a lot of attention to food variety and richness, since breaking the fast is a family affair, often with the entire extended families meeting at the table just after sunset. There are several special desserts that are served almost exclusively during Ramadan, such as kunafa and atayef. during the Ramadan month, many Egyptians prepare a special table for the poor or passers-by, usually in a tent in the street, called Ma’edet Rahman which literally translates to “Table of the Merciful”. Observant Christians in Egypt adhere to fasting periods according to the Coptic calendar; these days may extend to more than two-thirds of the year for the most observant. The more secular Coptic population fasts only for Easter and Christmas. The Coptic diet for fasting is essentially vegan. During this fasting, only vegetables and legumes are eaten and all meat and dairy products are avoided.
Egyptian Recipes To Make At Home
Gebna Makleyah (Oven-Fried Cheese)
Serves 4 to 6.
1 cup firm feta cheese, crumbled or traditional Egyptian cheese, such as labna or gebna
1 tablespoon flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges and pita bread cut into triangles, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Place the cheese, flour, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well.
Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.
If the mixture seems too loose to hold the ball shape, add a little more flour.
If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit of lemon juice, vinegar or water.
Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil onto a cookie sheet to grease.
Arrange the cheese balls on the cookie sheet, rolling them around to coat thoroughly with the oil.
Bake 5 minutes.
Wearing an oven mitt, open the oven door and shake the cookie sheet to prevent the cheese balls from sticking, then turn them over.
Bake 5 more minutes, until golden brown.
Remove with a spatula and drain on absorbent paper.
Serve warm with lemon wedges and triangles of pita bread.
Ful Mudammas (Broad Beans in Sauce)
Serves 4 to 6.
2 cans (15-ounces each) cooked fava beans
6 cloves garlic, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¼ cup olive oil
1½ tablespoons parsley, minced
Garnish, such as radishes, hard-boiled eggs, chopped scallions, pita bread (toasted and cut into wedges)
Press the garlic cloves through a garlic press into a medium bowl.
Mash the garlic and salt together.
Next, add the lemon juice, olive oil and parsley to the garlic mixture and combine thoroughly.
Drain the beans well, rinse and put the beans into a large pot over low heat.
Add the garlic mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine thoroughly.
Serve warm with the garnishes arranged on a platter.
Each person is served a plateful of Ful Mudammas and adds the garnishes of his or her choice.
Koushari (Lentils, Macaroni, Rice, and Chickpeas)
Serves 4 to 6.
1 cup lentils
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup elbow macaroni
1 cup rice
1 can (15-ounces) chickpeas (also called ceci beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup canned tomato puree
¼ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, or to taste
To prepare the lentils:
Place the lentils in a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Place them in a large saucepan with 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt.
Heat until the water begins to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the lentils are tender. Drain and set the lentils aside.
To prepare the macaroni:
Fill the same saucepan with water (add salt). Heat until the water begins to boil.
Add the macaroni and boil about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the macaroni is tender. Drain and set the macaroni aside.
To prepare the rice:
Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the same saucepan. Add the rice and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, thoroughly coating the rice with oil.
Add 2 cups of water and heat until the water begins to boil. Cover the saucepan and simmer until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
To assemble the koushari:
Drain the chickpeas and rinse them in a colander. Add chickpeas, lentil, and macaroni to the cooked rice and toss very gently with a fork.
To make the sauce:
Peel the onions and cut them in half lengthwise. Slice each half crosswise into thin slices.
Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon until the onions are golden brown.
Add garlic clove and cook 1 or 2 more minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and heat until bubbly.
Pour the sauce over the lentil mixture and heat over very low heat for about 5 minutes, until completely warm.
Serve with pita bread.
1 cup dried prunes
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried small figs, halved
1½ cups raisins
1 cup sugar, or to taste
2½ cups boiling water
Nuts for garnish
Place all the fruits in a bowl and mix together gently.
Sprinkle the sugar on top of the dried fruits.
Carefully pour the boiling water into the bowl, cover and allow to cool to room temperature.
Refrigerate for several hours or overnight if possible. ( Khoshaf is best when allowed to marinate overnight or for several hours before serving.) Garnish with nuts and serve.
Beans play an essential role in Italian cooking and, consequently, they are grown throughout the country. From Sicily in the south to Piedmont and Veneto in the north, various regions produce different kinds of beans, all of which are enjoyed by the Italian culture. While many cooks will substitute one white bean for another, each type provides its own individual shape and texture to a given dish.
Borlotti (cranberry beans) is a favorite bean in northern Italy. These red, tan and brown speckled beans turn dark brown on the outside and yellow on the inside when cooked. They add a creamy consistency to any recipe.
The region of Tuscany is famous for Cannellini, white kidney beans, and are simply referred to as fagioli. Other popular Tuscan white beans include sorani, toscanello, corona and schiaccianoci.
Chickpeas (Cece) or Garbanzo Beans are the most widely consumed legume in the world and have been adopted in every region of Italy. The chickpea has a round shape and are beige in color. They have a firm texture with a flavor somewhere between chestnuts and walnuts. Chickpeas can be cooked in soups and stews, added to pasta, eaten cold in salads and ground into a gluten-free flour.
Corona, a large white bean, is a member of the runner family and when cooked, they almost triple in size. This is one reason this hearty bean is often called the “poor man’s meat.”
Fava beans are a staple of Abruzzo, Puglia, Campania, as well as Sicily. A staple of southern Italian cuisine, fava beans are hardy and widely available.
Lentils, or lenticchie, are eaten all across Italy. With their nutty taste, lentils are ideally small and brown. The most select lentils are grown in Umbria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Although lentils do not require soaking previous to cooking, they are best when soaked for about an hour.
With all beans, keep in mind that the fresher the bean, the better it will taste when used in your favorite recipes.
A diet rich in fiber is a great preventative of coronary heart disease and colon cancer. Beans can provide a reduction in serum cholesterol levels and are also thought to prevent diabetes in at-risk individuals. Additionally, beans contain more protein than any other vegetable; some beans even rival chicken or meat in protein content.
Cooking beans at home is a simple way to save money and provide the base for many healthy meals. It requires little effort and they’re easy to keep on hand in the refrigerator or freezer. You can quickly put together soups, salads, dips and spreads.
Basic Directions for Cooking Dried Beans
Makes about 6 cups
- 1 pound dried beans
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 2 bay leaves
- Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Spread beans in a single layer on a large sheet tray; pick through to remove and discard any small stones or debris and then rinse well.
Soak the beans using one of these two methods:
Traditional soaking method: In a large bowl, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight.
Quick soaking method: In a large pot, cover beans with 3 inches of cold water, cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, remove pot from heat and set aside, covered, for 1 hour.
Drain soaked beans and transfer to a large pot. Cover with 2 inches of cold water, add onion and bay leaves and bring to a boil; skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Drain beans, discard onions and bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.
Beans develop flavor as they cook, but the flavor is subtle. You can boost the flavor of cooked beans by adding aromatic root vegetables, herbs and spices or meat to the pot near the end of cooking—the last 10 to 30 minutes. The flavor of the vegetables, herbs and meat is infused in the water and in turn is drawn into the bean. The conventional wisdom about salting beans is that salt toughens the skins as they cook. So it is best to add salt at the end of the cooking time. Do not add acidic ingredients, like vinegar, tomatoes or tomato juice, as this will slow the cooking process. Instead, add these ingredients after the beans are cooked.
Here are several flavoring options to add near the end of cooking dried beans:
- Sauté separately diced aromatic vegetables—onions, celery, carrots, leeks, celery root, parsnip, garlic–in olive oil until just soft then stir them into the bean pot with about 10 minutes left to cook.
- At the end of cooking, stir in salt and pepper to taste, add a bouquet garni–a few thyme sprigs, parsley stems and two bay leaves tied in kitchen twine–to soak.
- Add a ham hock or a piece of prosciutto to cook with the beans for a deep meaty flavor. Diced bacon or ham steak added to the liquid will also deliver flavor to the beans, as will chunks of beef, pork or lamb.
- When using beans in a soup, you can thicken the soup by transferring a cup or two of the cooked beans and broth to a blender and purée thoroughly. Then return the purée to the cooking pot.
Orecchiette Pasta with Spinach and Beans
- 1 pound orecchiette pasta (small ears)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 12 ounces fresh spinach leaves, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained
- Parmesan cheese, grated
Cook the orecchiette in boiling water for 1-2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time. Drain and do not rinse.
While the pasta is cooking, saute garlic and red pepper flakes in oil in a saute pan for 1-2 minutes. Do not allow garlic to brown. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Saute until the spinach is wilted. Add broth and simmer about 5 minutes. Add beans and drained orecchiette to the broth mixture. Stir to combine and cook 1-2 more minutes. Transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
TIP: If you under cook pasta by a few minutes and then add it to your soup to finish the cooking time, the pasta will absorb some of the broth and be more flavorful.
Bean and Sausage Stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 4 Italian sausage links, either pork or turkey, cut in half
- 1 cup cooked beans, drained
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 small potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium high. Brown the sausages on all sides for about 10 minutes and remove onto a plate.
Add the onions to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, until slightly translucent. Add the remaining ingredients.
Bring to a boil, return the sausage to the pot and reduce the heat to medium low.
Cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste.
Herbed Lentils with Spinach and Tomatoes
Serve with pita bread
- 1 cup lentils
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons diced shallots
- 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
- 14 oz. diced tomatoes, slightly drained
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Place the lentils in a pot with the water and let rest one hour. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender but still retain their shape. Drain any excess water from the lentils and set them aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, lentils, basil and parsley to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until warmed through. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper and serve.
Beans and Broccoli
- 2 cups dried large white beans (corona), soaked overnight
- 3 ounces Parmesan cheese with rind
- 1 onion, quartered
- 1 head garlic, halved crosswise
- Kosher salt
- 1½ pounds broccoli, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 4 anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained, finely chopped
- 2 wide strips lemon zest, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Drain beans and place in a large heavy pot. Remove the rind from the cheese and add to the beans along with the onion and garlic. Pour in water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, adding water as needed to keep beans submerged, until beans are tender, about 2 hours. Season with salt. Let the beans cool in the liquid. Discard vegetables and Parmesan rind, then drain.
Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix broccoli with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, 15–20 minutes. Let cool. Finely chop the broccoli.
In a large bowl combine the anchovies, lemon zest, lemon juice, remaining ¼ cup of olive oil and beans. Mix gently. Add the broccoli and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Shave Parmesan cheese over the mixture and serve.
Braised Chicken with Fennel and White Beans
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cut-up whole chicken (about 3 lbs)
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse (kosher or sea) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored, thinly sliced
- 1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips
- 1 can (28 oz) Italian whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 cups cooked beans
- Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
In a deep 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken pieces to the skillet; cook 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until chicken is light golden brown. Remove chicken from skillet to a platter.
Add onion, garlic, fennel and bell pepper to the skillet. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add browned chicken, tomatoes, wine and rosemary. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, turning chicken once, until chicken is tender.
Stir in beans. Cook uncovered about 5 minutes longer or until sauce is slightly thickened and juice of chicken is clear, when the thickest area reads 165°F on a meat thermometer. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
- 10 Ways to Cook Beans With Global Flavors (onegreenplanet.org)
- bean eaters (racheleats.wordpress.com)
- How to Cook Dried Beans (Dutch Oven Method) (acouplecooks.com)
Jack’s magic beans that grew overnight into a beanstalk were very probably fava beans or, as the English call them, broad beans. Americans, however, have been slow to appreciate this great tasting vegetable, even though, their flavor is smoother, sweeter and richer than most other beans.
But we may be undergoing a spring awakening.The pale green beans in the big floppy pods have been an early spring food in many countries for centuries. Favas — also known as Windsor beans, English beans, horse beans and pigeon beans — have long been a diet staple in Asia, the Middle East, South America, North Africa and Europe.
These ancient beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants and among the easiest to grow. They were the only beans Europeans ate before they discovered America and all its legumes. Explorers took American beans back to Europe and introduced the fava to America, which never really caught on.
After preparing them, you begin to understand why. This is a labor-intensive process. First, you string and shuck the beans, then parboil them so that the waxy coating can be removed. It is an afternoon event and, for Americans, not a great use of their time.
Unshelled, fresh favas look like giant, bumpy string beans. They are 5 to 7 inches long and lined with padding that looks like cotton batting. You don’t want to buy beans that are bulging out of the pod — which means they are probably old.
The beans have a buttery texture, a slight bitterness and a nutty flavor. Their fresh green color is a welcome sign of spring.
Fresh fava beans are purchased in the shell, so you’ll have to buy a lot more beans than you might think. One pound of un-peeled beans will give you roughly 1/3 cup of favas.
How to get to the bean:
- First, remove the beans from the pods (much like you would when shelling peas) by running a finger up the seam of the pod, splitting it open and removing the beans. There are about 4 to 5 beans per pod.
- At this point you’ll notice that the bean has a thick white skin around it which also needs to be peeled off.
- To remove the second skin, there are two different methods. The first is to make a small slit with a knife along the edge of the bean to pop the bean out of its skin.
- The alternate, and more popular, method is to put the fava beans in boiling salted water to blanch for 30 seconds. Remove the beans from the boiling water and submerge them in ice cold water to stop the cooking process. This step softens the second skin, making it easier to remove.
- With your fingers, squeeze the bean out from its skin.
- Now, you can use the beans as directed in any recipe of your choice.
Fava beans have been a staple of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines for centuries and they are used in appetizers, omelets, salads, soups, dips, pasta dishes and casseroles. Many home cooks like to add favas to minestrone soup and favas can sometimes substitute for garbanzos in falafel patties.
I am most familiar with dried favas, which are greenish-brown and large compared to most beans and flat with a distinctive slim black eye. I often use these because fresh fava beans are not easy to find.
When You Can’t Find Fresh
Fresh fava beans have a short season, but they’re available in other forms to enjoy all year long.
Peeled frozen beans can be used in place of fresh, with slightly increased cooking times (follow the directions on the label).
Many people are familiar with dried favas and they are often imported from Italy. These are excellent for soup.
Canned or bottled favas are available in most supermarkets, but these tend to be the least favorable way to enjoy these beans. Often, the tough outer skin has not been removed and the beans can be high in sodium. If you use canned or bottled beans, be sure to rinse, drain and peel them, if necessary.
Favas are nutrition superheroes. They are high in fiber and iron and low in sodium and fat. They have no cholesterol but are high in protein.
Fava beans are popular in Italy.
They are often served as a first course spring salad with young sheep’s cheese tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and a little hot pepper. Next on the menu: could be fresh favas quickly sauteed with seafood and herbs or cooked fava beans pureed with cream and butter. Fava beans can be served simply boiled, mashed and spread on crostini, or added to spring stews and soups. They are often paired with artichokes or other spring vegetables such as peas and morels (mushrooms).
Italians credit the fava bean as a factor in saving Sicilians from starvation. Since then, the fava has been considered good luck. The myth of the fava bean began during the famine in Sicily, where the beans were used as fodder for cattle. To survive, the farmers prepared them for the table. Hence, they considered themselves lucky to have them.
Fava beans play a large role in the Sicilian tradition of the St. Joseph Table. which is held in March to honor the saint. They may be served in a frittata or in garlic sauce during this celebration. When dried, roasted and blessed, they become the very popular “lucky bean.” Legend has it that you will never be broke as long as you carry one. Some people believe that if you keep one in the pantry, there will always be food in the kitchen. The bean is also a symbol of fertility, since it grows well even in poor, rocky soil. Italians would carry a bean from a good crop to ensure a good crop the following year.
Fava Bean Recipes:
Fresh Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad
Fava beans are a spring favorite in southern and central Italy. This salad, adapted from Patricia Wells’, Trattoria, (William Morrow 1993) is popular as a starter or as part of an antipasto spread. If you can only find a hard grating pecorino, use a soft goat cheese. If there are leftovers, saute the beans and cheese with a little oil in a small skillet. They are fragrant and delicious as a warm appetizer.
Makes 8 to 12 servings
- 2 pounds fresh unshelled fava beans (about 2 cups shelled beans)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
- 3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, snipped with scissors
- 1/8 teaspoon crushed red peppers (hot red pepper flakes), or to taste
- 8 ounces soft sheep’s milk cheese such as a pecorino or a soft fresh goat’s milk cheese, cut in small cubes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Shell and parboil the beans as directed above in how to get at the bean.
In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and toss to blend. Taste for seasoning.
Arugula and Fava-Bean Crostini
- 1 cup shelled fresh fava beans (1 1/4 pounds in pods) or shelled fresh or frozen edamame (soybeans; 3/4 pounds in pods)
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for drizzling
- 1 1/2 cups packed baby arugula (1 1/2 ounces), divided
- 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 baguette
- 1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
- 16 mint leaves
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Cook fava beans in boiling water, uncovered, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain and transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking. Gently peel off skins.
Pulse fava beans in a food processor until very coarsely chopped, then transfer half of mixture to a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup oil, 1/2 cup arugula, cheese, lemon zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper to favas in processor and purée until smooth. Add to bowl. Coarsely chop remaining cup arugula and gently fold into fava-bean mixture.
Cut 16 diagonal slices (1/3 inch thick) from baguette and put on a 4-sided sheet pan. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon oil. Bake until pale golden and crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. Rub with cut side of garlic.
Spoon fava-bean mixture onto baguette toasts, then drizzle with oil and top with mint.
Shrimp and Fava Beans with Thyme
Makes 2 entree servings or 4 appetizer servings
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- About 2 ounces firm, salty ham such as prosciutto, cut into tiny dice (about 1/3 cup)
- 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 3/4 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 pound fresh, unshelled fava beans
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Shell fava beans according to instructions above.
Heat oil and butter in skillet over moderate heat. Add ham and garlic and toss for a minute. Add shrimp, favas and thyme and toss just until shrimp turn pink.
Sprinkle with pepper and salt. Serve immediately.
Fava Bean and Pasta Soup from Sicily
Serves 4 to 5
- 1 pound fresh, young fava beans
- 1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 ounces pancetta, chopped
- 6 cups cold water
- 1/4 pound linguine or spaghetti, broken into 1½-inch lengths
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Remove the beans from the pods, shell and pick off the little buds that appear on the side of the beans. (See photo above.)
Place the oil and onion in a large saucepan over low heat, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion sweats.
Add the pancetta and saute for 8 to 10 minutes, until it begins to color. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the beans and partially cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, until the beans are tender. The timing depends on the freshness of the beans.
When the favas are tender, stir in the pasta and cook until the texture is al dente, about 6-8 minutes or so, stirring now and then, to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
Remove from the heat, add basil, mint, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Variation: If fresh fava beans are not to be found, you can use 5 ounces (3/4 cup) dried fava beans instead. Dried fava beans have to be soaked overnight.
To make this soup using dried fava beans, bring the drained, soaked beans and 8 cups water to a boil in a soup kettle; simmer until the beans are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain, reserving the bean cooking liquid; cool the beans. Remove and discard the tough outer skin from the fava beans. Follow the recipe instructions, adding the cooked fava beans and 6 cups of the bean cooking liquid just after adding the pancetta. Bring to a boil, add the pasta and proceed with the recipe instructions.
Poached Chicken Breast with Spring Fava Beans
Makes 4 servings
- 1 cup fava beans, shelled
- 4 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 2 medium leeks, washed well, trimmed and cut into long strips
- 4 fingerling potatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 4 cups Chicken Stock
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 sprigs fresh oregano for garnish
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Immerse the fava beans in the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain and plunge the beans into the ice water for 30 seconds to stop the cooking process. Drain. To remove the fibrous shells from the blanched fava beans, make an incision on one end of the shell with your fingernail, pop the bean out, and discard the shells. Set aside.
Place the chicken breasts, leeks and potatoes into a medium-size pot; add the stock, set over medium heat and bring to a simmer; cook, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the fava beans, parsley and oregano; continue to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the broth and cut into thin slices. Place equal portions of chicken, beans, leeks and potatoes into 4 serving bowls, pour a little broth over all and drizzle 1 teaspoon lemon juice on each bowl. Garnish with oregano sprigs. Serve immediately.
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