Monday, May 14, 2012

Bessara: Moroccan Fava Bean Dip

Plate of carrots with Bowl of Bessara
Thick Bessara with Rainbow Carrots

Recipe Adapted by Robin and Bruce from “Cooking By Moonlight

Fava beans are small but mighty. They’re grown as cover crops, to “fix” nitrogen and naturally fertilize fields. Fava beans are harvested in spring, then the plants are plowed under, adding usable nitrogen to the soil. Fava flavor is strong and their texture hefty. I’ve tried using them in many recipes with less-than-bloggable results. Both fava beans and chickpeas are used in the Middle East and northern African cuisine, somewhat interchangeably. Substituting favas for chickpeas in known recipes is risky, note my recent oven-roasted fava fail. The concept of preparing favas as  hummus actually has a name (bessara), which was a good sign.  It’s still a strong dish, and makes a memorable appetizer.

Cooked, Peeled Fava Beans, Green Garlic, Lemon, and Ground Cumin
Partial List of Ingredients
We based the bessara on our recipe for Lemon Hummus, adapted from Karri Ann Allrich’s excellent “Cooking By Moonlight.” Because our CSA provides large amounts of both green garlic and favas at this time of year, I’ve used green garlic instead of dry garlic. Go ahead and substitute 1 – 2 cloves of dry garlic if you don’t have the green.  Although traditional bessara is thin, for dipping pita bread, I made it thick for dipping vegetables. Depending on your preferences, you could add more water and/or oil to thin it out.

Did I mention that the flavor is strong? If it seems too strong, there are two ways to go: tame down the bessara itself, or serve it with something that stands up to it.

Browned Green Garlic in Frying Pan
Brown the Green Garlic
You can thin it with extra water, olive oil, or a little yogurt till it’s smoother and more diluted. Or, pair it with something strong in flavor or texture. Karri Ann Allrich’s ideas for hummus also work well for bessara. She serves it as sandwich filling for pita breads, roll-ups, or rustic breads, adding sprouts, grated carrots, sliced red onion, and cucumber. Bruce suggested eating it as he did the Lemon Hummus, in a roll-up with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumber, and sliced yellow and red mini-bell peppers. You could also try it on hearty young romaine leaves with chopped tomato and perhaps a sprinkling of finely chopped mint leaves.

Enjoy your fava beans now! They'll be gone within the next few weeks.

Carrot with Big Dip of Bessara
Stronger than it Looks
Bessara: Moroccan Fava Bean Dip
makes about 1 cup

8 oz. shelled fava beans
1 tsp. cumin seeds
½ tsp. sweet paprika
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large stalk green garlic
3 - 4 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. olive oil, or more
½  tbsp. water, or more
¼ -½  tsp. salt
1 dash or two cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tbsp. yogurt, optional.

Steam fava beans till very tender, about 15 – 20 minutes. Plunge beans into ice water to “shrink up” the skins. Peel off the skins by pinching off excess skin on one end and squeezing inner bean out from the opposite side.

Meanwhile eat small frying pan and toast cumin seed over medium low until they darken in color, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Pour into mortar. When cool, grind toasted cumin fine with mortar and pestle. Measure out ¾ tsp. ground cumin.

Slice green garlic about ¼ inch thick, discarding wilted outer leaves, but using both white and green parts that aren’t too tough.

Add 1 tbsp. olive oil to the same frying pan with oil. Heat over medium-high heat and heat garlic till it starts to brown and gets translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add garlic, cumin, and paprika to food processor, and process till garlic is about the size of bell pepper seeds (about 6 seconds). Add favas, 3 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. olive oil, and water. Process for about 10 seconds. Take off processor lid, scrape down if needed, and check to see if you like the texture. Process again if needed. I preferred this super-smooth.

Scrape into serving bowl and season to taste with sea salt to taste, and cayenne pepper and additional lemon juice if desired. If too thick thin to desired consistency with water and/or olive oil (olive oil will make flavor less strong). Add yogurt if desired, to mellow the flavor further.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Robin- Thanks for linking up this recipe as well on our fava bean post. It looks really good! Feel free to link it up under our green garlic post as well:

    Have a great weekend!