Monday, June 9, 2014

Cold Fava Bean Soup with Sumac

As a child, during the short and lovely Polish summers, I often ate fava beans fresh from the market. We made them as snacks: cooked them, drizzled with melted butter, and sprinkled with salt and dill.

Until recently, that was the only way of serving fava beans I had known. But then I discovered that in other cuisines, fava beans have been much more popular. Especially in Italy, there are many dishes based on fava. I recently tried some of them, including crostini with fava purée or fava served with prosciutto and Peccorino cheese. I will come back to those ideas in this blog, but today, I would like to share a recipe for fava bean soup that I invented inspired by a press article about Yottam Ottolenghi, one of my favorite chefs and an author of several cookbooks.

While talking about the Palestinian-Israeli culinary fusion and its popularity in the world, he talked about many dishes based on the traditional ingredients from the Middle East. Among them, he mentioned the cold fava soup that is served in one of his restaurants. Since I happened to have a bag of fresh fava beans in my refrigerator, on one of the hot days that we finally started having in the DC area, I decided to try to recreate a cold fava soup.

I said "recreate", because there were no ingredients shared for that soup other than the chili oil sumac--a sour spice my Afghan friend introduced me to, and which I have already used in many recipes. As a result, this soup had to be a bit of an experiment, which turned out nice enough for me to share this recipe. As usual, it is best to use fresh beans and double shell them. If fresh are not available, your local Middle Eastern store certainly carries, all year long, double-shelled frozen fava beans, which could be used instead.

Cold Fava Bean Soup
(Serves six)

12 oz fresh double-shelled fava beans,
2 shallots finely chopped,
2 tbsp olive oil,
3 tbsp Lebne (middle eastern kefir-based white cheese, now available in many food stores),
2 tbsp lemon juice,
3 tsp sumac,
2 tsp chili oil,
salt and pepper to taste.

1. Heat the oil and sauté shallots on medium heat for about 5 minutes, until transparent. Add fava beans and fry together for about 3 minutes.

2. Pour 4 cups of water in the pot and bring beans to boil. Reduce heat, and boil briefly, for about 3 minutes, until beans become soft but are still bright green. Season with salt and pepper and cool completely.
3. Add two tbsps of Lebne cheese and lemon juice to the soup and, using a food processor or a hand mixer, purée the soup.
4. Divide the soup between bowls, finish with a small dollop of Lebne cheese. Sprinkle the soup with sumac and drizzle with chili oil.
5. Serve at room temperature.

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