One of my favorite parts about traveling is (surprise surprise) eating. Not only do I love discovering new tastes and dishes, I adore the chance to learn new recipes that I can take back home with me.
Inevitably the best recipes are the simplest ones. The ones that make me slap my forehead and say “why didn’t I think of that!” (ok, I don’t really slap my forehead).
After all the summers we’ve been coming to Paros, we are pretty familiar with the local dishes. While we never tire of things like tzatiki and taramasalata, souvlake and grilled sardines and lamb, we are always on the look out for something new and different.
That’s why we ordered Fava Salad when we saw it on the menu at the Taverna in Lolantonis. We had no idea what to expect, which was part of the thrill.
I'm not sure why, but after all these years coming to Greece, we still think that when we see the word ‘salad’ on a menu, that it is in fact going to be some kind of salad. You know, with pieces of vegetables dressed in olive oil. But since every other dish with the word ‘salad’ attached turns out to be a room temperature puree of something, we should have realized what Fava Salad was going to be.
Yes, it turned out to be a puree of dried fave beans. But prepared in a completely different way than what we were used to in Italy. In Puglia (which is so far south it might as well be Greece) dried fava beans are cooked until they form a puree. They are served warm, drizzled with olive oil and paired with a tangle of wilted chicory. (And here’s a recipe for that).
While the basic cooking method for the beans in Greece is the same, they turn it into something much lighter and more summery. The puree is whipped until smooth, with just enough olive oil to make it silky. Served room temperature, it’s then spread on a small plate and topped with an abundance of chopped red onions and a sprinkling of dried oregano. A squeeze of lemon, more oil and you have my newest favorite recipe of the trip.
Isn’t it brilliant?
Did you slap yourself on the forehead?
1 cup dried fave beans
1 red onion
The photograph above is of some dried fave beans in Puglia. Dried fave come in two versions, with and without skin. You want the skinned version for this recipe, which appear in the photograph. They are cream colored and split in half.
(If you can't get dried fave beans, you can try this with any other bean. Let me know how it turns out.)
Place the fave beans in a bowl of water and soak for six hours.
Drain beans and place in pot, and add water enough to come about a half inch over the beans. Add 1 tsp of salt and bring to simmer. Let simmer, undisturbed, until the beans are mushy/tender. Don’t be tempted to stir them up. You want most of the water to be absorbed, but most of what's not absorbed should evaporate. By the end you should have just enough liquid in the pan to help the beans become mush.
Take the beans off the stove and add a quarter cup of olive oil. Whip them until they are smooth. If you make this ahead of time, you’ll find the beans may solidify a bit. Just whip them up again, adding more oil if necessary.
Place the puree on a platter, running your fork across it to create a rough surface. Scatter chopped onions on top, Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and oregano. Finally, squeeze lemon juice over it all.