For today (as I clean up after and recover from my son’s fun-for-all 12th birthday party), a quick recipe for one of my very favorite Greek vegetarian dishes. Next time, a little history of the dish and of the humble legume that serves as its base: the yellow split pea.
Fava (a bit confusing, I know—there aren’t any fava beans in this) makes a great side dish or appetizer and is a common addition to the Lenten table. You can also serve it as a dip. Fava is one of the few dishes my 90-year-old friend Panagiota will allow me to cook for her. She doesn’t make it herself anymore, for some reason, but when I bring her some, she says it reminds her of the old days and she eats a plateful with relish. There are many ways to prepare and serve this dish, including by “marrying” the peas with sauteed onions and tomatoes. I prefer it sketo, or straight, and simple.
1 cup dried yellow split peas, picked over, rinsed and drained
5 or more cups water, as needed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Chopped red onions
Place the rinsed and drained peas in a large pot and cover with several inches of cold water. Bring to a boil on the stove top, and then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, skimming if necessary. As the peas cook, add water as needed to keep the peas covered. When the peas are completely disintegrated, remove from the heat.
Drain the cooked peas, reserving the cooking liquid. Mash the peas with a fork or blend in a food processor. Add olive oil (and a little of the cooking liquid if you prefer a thinner consistency), mashing or blending until the fava is smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, place the fava in a bowl, drizzle it with olive olive oil and top with any combination of the toppings above.
Kαλή όρεξη! (Good appetite!)