Image by seier+seier+seier via Flickr
My passion for the spices and flavors of the Middle East only seem to increase as I get older. I have been trying more and more to experience again the wonderful meals I enjoyed for many years at my mother's table -- her Jewish specialties from Aleppo, Syria, where she was born.
Now, I visit Aleppo Restaurant and Middle Eastern bakeries and markets in Paterson to taste that wonderful food or gather the ingredients for home-cooked meals.
The other day, I found a large, 32-ounce can of fava beans from Lebanon in my cupboard and immediately thought salad. I drained most of the liquid and poured these humble beans into a bowl, adding chopped scallion and parsley, extra-virgin olive oil, juice from two small lemons, garlic powder, cumin, allspice, Aleppo red pepper and salt.
You can heat up the seasoned beans, smash some of them and serve them with a hard-boiled egg on top. Or you can spoon a good amount of beans on a plate, warm them in the microwave and top them with one or two sunny side up eggs, as I did for breakfast today. Then, I warmed up Syrian bread and scooped up egg, yolk and beans, or made small sandwiches with the pocket bread.
Image via WikipediaGrace Sasson, my mother, used to make falafel with fresh fava beans, as the Egyptians do. Everyone else uses chickpeas. In her self-published cookbook, "Kosher Syrian Cooking," she has the falafel recipe and a second recipe where shelled fava beans are cooked in oil, water and allspice until they turn brown and served as a side dish.
I'll probably be making some hummus (pureed chickpeas) this week -- adding powdered garlic, lemon juice and olive oil to canned spread from Lebanon -- and I know I'll be snacking on pocket-bread sandwiches of fava beans and hummus. Basic, filling and delicious.