It took me quite a while to get my head around this dish, because fava, to my knowledge is Vicia faba, the broad bean common in Italian cookery. When Neni talks about fava, she’s referring to something very different: Lathyrus odoratus, the sweet pea. Most Greek fava recipes are described as split yellow peas (Pisum sativum). I’ve tried this dish with both Lathyrus odoratus and Pisum sativum and they are very different. In comparison, the split pea puree has a murky taste and soggy character. The sweet pea puree has an aromatic, earthy taste with a light, dry texture. But sweet pea (or Greek fava) is hard to find. I got Arosis brand at Kalustyan’s. You should too! Just ask for Dona. She knows all about it.
Greek fava is served as a main dish during Lent. Otherwise, it is a wonderful dip for bread.
Serves 4 as an appetizer
1 cup Lathyrus odoratos (Greek fava beans), washed
3 1/2 cups water
1 medium onion (red or yellow)
1 pinch dried thyme
1 pinch dried oregano or marjoram
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespooons minced red onion
3 tablespoons capers
Place the fava and water in a medium sized pot and add the onion, dried herbs, and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook about 35 minutes, until the fava is very soft. Remove the bay leaf.
Press the fava and onion through a sieve over a bowl, rubbing with a spatula. If the fava is too thick to do this easily, add a bit of water. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, spoon the fava puree into a serving bowl and make a well into the center. Add the oil, onion, and capers and gently combine. Serve with bread.