Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hummus Too Good for Hannibal

by Erin Merhar
Amidst 36°F weather at the end of March, I write this with wishful thoughts of blooming daffodils, jacket-less Sundays, Prosecco al fresco and picnics in the park… Spring is around the corner and with its sunshine it brings a gamut of refreshing ingredients.

Swap Jerusalem artichokes and for a buttery, tender baby artichoke. Go green with spring peas
and asparagus. And as you open your closets for spring cleaning, pod a fava bean and explore the nutty, buttery tenderness of an old world tradition.

Fava beans are native to Central Asia, the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries where they have been a staple in the diet since ancient times. A legume, their pods contain 5-6 large seeds which are surrounded by a leathery, opaque outer shell. They boast nutritional advantages including high protein, iron and fiber content while low in fat and cholesterol. Providing sustenance to early civilizations, favas were traditionally paired with grains but have since evolved into a key ingredient for soups, stews, purees, salads, falafel, pastas, paella and risotto.

Fresh favas are sold in their 6 to 8-inch long, furry pods, which can look spotted and floppy, whereas the beans inside should feel firm. In most cases, fava beans should be removed from the pod before cooking. Split the pod along the seam and pop out the beans. The legumes are then surrounded by a leathery outer skin that is easiest to remove after cooking. Blanch the beans for 2 minutes in seasoned water and refresh in an ice bath. Once cool, squeeze the bean from this casing, sauté in a bit of olive oil, and enjoy your spring awakening.

Fresh fava bean hummus with za’tar spiced flatbread

Inspired by the fava’s roots, this portable dish honors the middle-east and eats well among friends in the park.

Fresh fava bean hummus
Yield: about 2 cups
2 lbs of fresh fava beans, about 2 ½ cups of beans removed from pods
1 Tbsp. + 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. lemon zest + extra for garnish
½ tsp. ground cumin
Pinch cayenne powder
3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, + 3-4 leaves for garnish
3 large fresh mint leaves
Salt, to taste

Bring 2 ½ quarts water to boil in a 4 qt saucepan. Season to taste like saltwater.
Remove fava beans from the outer pod, discarding the pod and reserving the bean.
Place in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, until tender. Refresh in an ice bath until cooled. Drain.
With a pairing knife, cut off the tip of the waxy outer shell at the top edge of the bean. Apply pressure to the other end of the shell to pop out the bean.

Heat 1 TBSP. of oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat. Saute garlic for 1-2 minutes until soft and fragrant. Reserve 3-4 whole fava beans for garnish and sauté the remainder over medium heat until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

In a food processor, add the fava bean mixture, 3 Tbsp. water, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin, cilantro, mint and water. Puree for 1 min until smooth. Scrape down sides of bowl.
With the machine running, drizzle the remaining 3 Tbsp. olive oil into the food processor bowl and puree until smooth and light in consistency, about 1 more minute. Season with salt, pepper and more lemon juice to taste.

Za’atar spice flatbread sticks
Yield: about 28-30 breadsticks.
Za’atar is an aromatic mixture of dried thyme, sour sumac berries and sesame seeds which is commonly used in Lebanese cuisine. In this recipe it accompanies extra virgin olive oil and sea salt as a garnish for flatbread sticks, creating a utensil-free transport for the fava bean hummus.

(This recipe was adapted from a Lebanese bread recipe in the book Artichokes to Za’atar by Greg and Lucy Malouf.)

3 1/3 cups flour + more for kneading
2 tsp salt
2 tsp. sugar
1- ¼ oz. packet active dry yeast, or 2 ¼ tsp dry active yeast
1 cup warm water
1 Tbsp. + ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. za’atar spice blend
2 tsp. sea salt

Bring 1 cup of water to 115°F. Thoroughly mix in sugar and yeast and let sit in a warm place for 10 min, until foamy. (If mixture does not foam, start over with fresh yeast).
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and yeast mixture. Mix with wooden spoon until dry and wet ingredients are roughly combined.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 8-10 minutes adding more flour and/or water as needed until a smooth, homogenous dough is formed. Place in a lightly floured bowl, cover with a towel and let rest for 1 hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, combine za’atar spice and sea salt. Reserve.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a 14” by 20” rectangle, about 1/8th inch thick, lightly flouring the surface if the dough begins to stick. Cut the dough in half, length-wise. Cross-wise, cut the dough into ¾”- 1” thick strips.
Place strips on a baking sheet. Brush thoroughly with olive oil and sprinkle generously with za’atar and sea salt mixture.


Andrea said...

Erin, I made this last Sunday for my family as an Easter appetizer-it was a big hit! So fresh and yummy. Glad to have you on EatLife said...

where did you find fava beans? This looks really interesting! I bet it would be an amazing hit with my office...

Erin said...

I found fresh favas in Manhattan at Agata & Valentina on E. 79th and 1st Ave. I have also seen them at the Whole Foods in Union Square. Hope you locate them and enjoy the recipe!