Discover more from Aglaia & Costas' Aegean Island Kitchen
...also peas, favas, and lentils in delicious dishes!
Michael Costa, ZAYTINYA’s concept chef, created this dish for the 2019 Greek Dinner at the Oxford Food Symposium.
Fava Sympetherió: puréed mixed legumes
Mashed yellow-split-peas called fava, cheap and fast cooking, is today one of the standard meze dishes served in homes and taverns all over Greece. Sympetheros is the father of one’s son or daughter and the term used for this dish in Crete implies the ‘marrying’ of different kinds of very interesting legumes mashed together in this delicious dish.
The term Sympetherió is also used for a salad of mixed, boiled legumes in other parts of Greece.
In recent years you will find fava prepared simply with yellow split peas; I usually mix yellow and green peas. Dried favas are seldom cooked these days on the mainland, but people continue to love them in Crete. Since antiquity, before white beans were introduced from the ‘New World,’ fava beans has been the basic Mediterranean legume.
See also my recipe for the traditional Santorini Fava, topped with capers and caramelized onions.
Throughout the Middle Ages and even earlier, the peas used for the mashed fava all over southern Europe were not fava beans but heirloom peas (Lathyrus sativus), traces of which have been identified in the prehistoric settlement of Akrotiri, in Santorini!
The following recipe for the mixed bean fava is inspired by the dish Dimitris Mavrakis serves at Kritamon, his restaurant in Archanes, near the spectacular Knossos archaeological site on eastern Crete.
The addition of radicchio is my tweak; I like its slight bitterness and dark red color that makes the topping more interesting and attractive.
SERVES 10-12 as part of a meze spread
1 large purple onion, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 pound large green lentils (see NOTE)
1/2 pound dried fava beans, peeled (see NOTE)
1/2 pound yellow split peas
About 2 teaspoons sea salt
About 2 ½ quarts water, or as needed
1 medium purple onion, halved and thinly sliced
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1-2 tablespoons pickling juice from the capers
1/3 cup capers
¼ head of small radicchio, thinly sliced
About ½ cup fruity olive oil, and more to drizzle
Salt to taste
Aleppo or Maras pepper to taste
Caper leaves to decorate, optional.
ZAYTINYA’s concept chef Michael Costa creating this beautiful dish for the Greek dinner served at the 2019 Oxford Food Symposium.
Cook the legumes: Sauté the onion in the olive oil for about 8 minutes, until translucent. Add the lentils, fava, and yellow split peas and toss for about 3 minutes, then add salt and water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, stirring often for about 30 minutes or more, adding water, as needed, and cook until pulse is soft and mushy. (BE VERY CAREFUL not to burn the bottom of the pan because then you must throw everything out and start again!)
The final mixture should be quite thick. If it is too watery, increase the heat and cook, stirring constantly, to thicken.
Mash briefly with a stick blender. I prefer a somewhat grainy mixture, not a very smooth one.
Let cool completely; it will thicken considerably. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 3 days.
Make the topping: When you are about to serve, toss in a bowl the sliced onion with the pickling juice, the capers, and lemon juice. Let macerate for 20-30 minutes. Add the radicchio and olive oil, toss and taste, adding salt and pepper as needed. The topping needs to have a strong flavor as it will be mixed with the somewhat bland mashed pulses.
To serve, divide the mashed pulses into 2-3 shallow serving plates creating a well in the center where you will add the topping. Drizzle with more fruity olive oil and sprinkle with Aleppo or Maras pepper. Decorate with capers and caper leaves if you like.
NOTE: You can make the dish with just 2 pounds of yellow split peas, instead of the mixed legumes.
Favopita: Yellow Split Pea or Bean Pie
Leftover boiled fava or cooked beans of any kind can be mixed with spicy sausage for this delicious pie from southern Albania. Traditionally, home-rolled phyllo is used, but I sometimes use the convenient frozen phyllo, making it more crunchy and interesting by brushing it with a yogurt-egg mixture.
2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped onions, sautéed in 1/4 cup olive oil, until soft
2 cups cooked and mashed yellow split peas (see note) or cooked beans, chickpeas, etc.
200 grams (about 1 ½ cup) chopped spicy smoked sausage such as chorizo
1 ½ cup diced olive oil bread croutons or 3-4 homemade, pre-baked phyllo sheets
½ - 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons Aleppo or Maras pepper flakes
3-4 sprigs chopped fresh thyme –I use our wild winter savory, but thyme is a good substitute
6 sheets thick frozen phyllo pastry, taken out of the freezer at least 2 hours in advance (you can wrap in plastic film and freeze the rest of the sheets for future use)
About 1/3 cup olive oil to brush the phyllo
1 small egg
2 tablespoons yogurt –any kind- or milk
Nigella seeds, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds to sprinkle the pies
Preheat the oven to 200C (about 375 F).
In a bowl mix the sautéed onions with the mashed yellow split peas or beans, as well as with the sausage and croutons. Add cumin, pepper flakes, and thyme and toss to mix.
Lay 3 sheets phyllo on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and rub lightly with olive oil, then spray with water. With half the fava mixture, make a line in the center of the sheets, leaving about 2 inches on each side, then turn in the sides and roll the sheet loosely to cover the filling, making a log. Move the log to the one side of the tray, making sure you place it seam-side down.
Repeat with the other 3 phyllo sheets and the rest of the filling to make the second log.
Spray the logs liberally with water.
In a bowl mix the egg and yogurt, and with the mixture brush the top of the pie logs using as much of the egg-yogurt mixture as you can. Then sprinkle with nigella, or any seeds you like. Score the top of the logs at about 2 ½ inch intervals.
Bake in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes or more, until deep golden brown on top and bottom. Let cool at least 20 minutes before cutting to serve.
NOTE: Cook the yellow split peas as described here. You can also use mashed cooked beans or chickpeas.
Garlicky Giant Beans
The deep flavored Baked Giant Beans with Garlic and Dill (Gigantes Skordati), scented with dill is my version of the more traditional beans in tomato sauce served in most Greek taverns. My friends love it, and I hope you will too!
My mother has been making this simple lentil soup all my life, but the idea of adding pickled cabbage came to me recently when I read an ancient and unexpected description of lentils.
Cited as food for heroes and warriors, lentils were paired with pickled volvoi, bitter grape hyacinth bulbs—what southern Italians call lampascioni. Here the fruity sourness of home-pickled cabbage, with its crunchy texture, complements beautifully the earthy sweetness of the lentils and potatoes.
A humble leftover lentil soup becomes a delicious vegan pasta with complex flavor, while in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts I created the Lebanese-inspired Linguine with Spicy Lentils and Caramelized Onions.