food Program

Fava Beans, Potatoes and Saffron Rice with Feta Cheese and Fresh Herbs

Contributed by Michael Natkin, Herbivoracious

I'm a fool for foul. Not foul like "and now I get to shoot free throws". Foul muddamas prounced "fool", which is the word for fava beans throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Like most beans, the fresh and dried versions are radically different. Fresh favas are mild and sweet, tasting something like a cross between a baby pea and a lima bean. And they are a royal pain in the butt to peel.

But I digress. The dish is made with dried fava beans, in this case from a can. The variety is smaller and rounder than the lima-shaped fresh version we most often get in this country. The cans should be available at any good Middle Eastern market, or buy dried and boil them yourselves. The canned product should be thorougly rinsed, and then simmered a bit with a little lemon juice to optimize the flavor and ensure tenderness.

For this dinner I paired them with some crispy sauteed potatoes, feta cheese and fresh herbs over saffron rice. It seemed like a Persian dish to me though I don’t know if is traditional. Any Persians out there want to comment?

I've noticed that a lot of Americans have in the back of their mind that they shouldn’t serve potatoes and rice together because they are both "starches". It is common practice in much of the world though. Think of aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower curry) with rice for example. Personally I think they can be delicious together.

Vegetarian and gluten-free; vegan if you omit the feta cheese

pinch saffron
112 cups basmati rice
1 lg (28 oz.) or 2 sml (15 oz.) cans fava beans
juice of 12 lemon
2 cups waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into medium dice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin powder
12 cup crumbled feta
1 lg handful fresh dill, minced
1 lg handful fresh mint, chiffonade
salt as needed

1. Crumble the saffron between your fingers and cover with a 14 cup of hot water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Make the basmati rice in your usual way (rice cooker or stovetop), including the saffron water as part of the regular volume of water.

2. Drain and thorougly rinse the fava beans. Bring them to a simmer with the lemon juice and a little water, and salt if needed. If they are already quite tender, just a few minutes is fine. If they are a little tough you might want to let them go for half an hour.

3. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame, and fry the potatoes in a single layer, tossing occasionally until tender, crispy, and golden brown. Add salt as needed. Add the garlic and cumin powder and cook for one more minute.

4. To serve, fill each bowl with 1 cup of rice, and top with 14 of the beans and 14 of the potatoes. Drizzle with a bit more of the extra-virgin olive oil if you like. Top with the feta and herbs.