Fava beans were a staple food in ancient times and they are still common in many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines today. Fava beans, also known as broad beans, are prized in Turkish cuisine as well for their delicious flavor and high nutritional value.
Fava beans are very high in protein and fiber and naturally low in fat and cholesterol. They have a pleasing light green color and unique, earthy flavor.
In Turkey, a popular appetizer, or "meze," is fava bean puree made with dried fava beans. The beans are boiled until soft and then strained together with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The resulting paste is left to set, then cut into cubes. Drizzle the cubes with olive oil, sprinkle on some fresh dill weed and you have a beautiful, exotic appetizer fancy enough for company.
It's a great recipe for entertaining because it's easy to make and you can prepare it ahead of time. Your fava cubes will keep very well for several days in the refrigerator.
Where can you get fava beans? The best place to find dried fava beans are in whole foods markets, Middle Eastern markets, and the ethnic foods section of your supermarket.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil in a covered saucepan. Add the dry fava beans, reduce the heat and cover. Let the mixture simmer slowly until the fava beans are very soft and falling apart and the water is reduced, about 20 minutes.
- Once the beans are soft enough to fall apart when you touch them with a wooden spoon, add the salt, pepper, sugar and olive oil to the pan and stir until combined.
- Place a large, fine wire strainer over another pan or large bowl. Pour some of the pasty bean mixture into the strainer and press it through using a wooden spoon. Repeat until you've pressed through all the mixture. Don't forget to remove the extra from the bottom of the strainer.
- You should have a thick, pasty but smooth mixture with no lumps. If your paste seems too thick and dry, stir in about 1 tablespoon more olive oil.
- While the paste is still warm, spoon it into a shallow rectangular, square or circle-shaped serving dish about 3 inches deep. Glass works best. I like to use a 9-inch round glass oven dish. Smooth the top of the paste with the bottom of a spoon. Set it aside to cool and set.
- Once it's cooled down to room temperature, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for several hours.
- When you remove it from the refrigerator, the paste should have set and be firm enough to cut. Wet the blade of a sharp knife and cut the fava into squares or diamonds. Make sure to re-wet the blade often to prevent sticking.
- Remove the blocks of fava gently and arrange them on your serving plate. Drizzle them with a little extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle the chopped, fresh dill weed over the top.