Thursday, April 9, 2009

Keeping peace in the kitchen

A couple of spectacular supermarkets opened recently in North Jersey, but they can't replace Fattal's, the pita bakery and so much more on Main Street in Paterson's South Paterson district.

The pita bread, spinach and meat pies, pastries and prepared food are all terrific at this Syrian emporium, but I also rely on it for the red, coarsely ground Aleppo pepper, canned hummus that is far cheaper than the refrigerated kind and other Middle Eastern food.

Last week, while stocking up on fat Moroccan sardines (99 cents a can), I looked for cans of ful medames (fava beans) from Libano Verde in Lebanon. (Ful is pronounced "fool.") I serve the beans as a salad, with the addition of olive oil, lemon juice, allspice, garlic and scallions or parsley, but you can also heat them up and serve them with a hard-boiled egg. Egyptians use fava beans to make their version of falafel, and it's a lot more interesting than the chickpea falafel you see everywhere.

But as I picked up a can or two of the ready-to-eat fava beans, I noticed subtle differences in the labels. One said "Palestinian Recipe," another read "Lebanese Recipe." There was more, a "Kurdistan Recipe" and an "Egyptian Recipe." I didn't know the humble but flavorful fava bean could be so controversial. So I took home all four.

I tried the Kurdistan Recipe first, finding that the beans were in a tahini sauce. Nice. One morning, I warmed pita halves and stuffed them with hummus, fava beans, organic spring mix, tomato with za'atar (a spice mixture), wild smoked salmon and a portion of a simple omelet. It was a great way to start the day.

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