Fava Purée Topped with Sumac Onions
The terms spring and vegetables really go hand-in-hand – earthy artichokes, thick, luscious asparagus, comical fiddleheads and, one of my personal favorites, fava beans. Yes, they are a bit labor-intensive as they have to be shelled from their pods and then each individual fava has to be peeled…but the taste, the creamy butteriness, makes all of that work worthwhile.
Fava beans, or broad beans as they are sometimes called, are actually very popular in the Middle East, North Africa and Mediterranean regions. In fact, ful medames, a dish consisted of slow-cooked favas with garlic, lemon and spices, is a typical breakfast dish in Egypt often served with eggs and pita. Seasonally, fresh favas may be available, but year-round, dried favas are a staple in the Egyptian diet.
Fava purée is a great way to enjoy the seasonally abundant, fresh favas at the greenmarkets. I like to add similar ingredients to the Egyptian dish – garlic, lemon, spices, but I also add potato to give the purée a bit of body. For a silky mouthfeel, I gently stir in extra virgin olive oil at the end; blending too vigorously with the rest of the ingredients can make the oil bitter. To top this puree, I soften sweet onions in a pan with tart spice sumac. The result is a beautiful side dish or starter that’s creamy, luscious, and bright. Enjoy!
Yields approximately 1 ½ cups of puree
2 cups shelled fresh favas (from about 2 lbs unshelled)
3 tbsp butter (1 tbsp is optional, melted)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 yukon gold potato, peeled and shredded
¾ tsp ground cumin
pinch of chili powder
5 garlic cloves, minced
juice of half a lemon
½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste
3 tbsps butter or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp ground sumac
For the fava purée, bring a medium pot of salted water up to a boil over high heat. Add favas and cook for 90 seconds to 2 minutes (they should be bright green). Drain and shock in an ice bath or run under cold water to stop cooking. Peel outer layer of skin from favas – they should slip out pretty easily. Discard skins and set peeled favas aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, potato, cumin, chili and favas (and a pinch or two of salt) and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until potatoes and favas are softened. Add garlic and cook for another 30 seconds until fragrant. Add lemon juice and chicken stock and bring up to a simmer.
Transfer fava mixture to a blender and purée to desired texture. Add a bit more stock if necessary to achieve a smoother texture. Remove to a bowl and stir in extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon of melted butter to get a creamy, mouthfeel. I like to stir in the oil, rather than blend, so that it doesn’t get bitter from overprocessing. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
For the sumac onions, heat butter or oil over medium heat. Add onion and sumac and cook until softened.
Serve fava purée warm, topped with sumac onions and a side of pita or toast points.