SIMPLE, MAGICAL SANTORINI FAVA

Posted: September 4, 2013 in bacon, Food, Recipes, Santorini, travel
Tags: , , , ,
They call it fava, but it’s not the bean we usually associate with that name. Originally, broad beans were used in this dish, but quickly it changed to a type of yellow shelled lentil that is much smaller and flavorful than its American counterpart, the yellow split pea, no doubt due in part to the dry, volcanic Santorini soil it grows in. The lentil is smaller and the art of turning this simple gem into a sublime porridge is worth learning.
The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

The fava at Dimitris Amoudi Taverna

As common in Santorini as pasta is in Italy, grains of fava have been found in archaeological sites in the ancient city of Akrotiri (on the southern side of Santorini) dating as far back as 3500 years ago. Every taverna on the island offers their own version of fava, and though the differences are subtle, they can be significant.
Most recipes start with the dried lentils, which are washed thoroughly. They are added to a pot of fresh water and then boiled until the water reduces and the lentils slowly absorb the liquid and soften into a porridge. Often chopped onion is added to the pot of water in the very beginning, so that it completely dissolves and flavors the fava. Some recipes call for a subtle mixture of local dried herbs, similar to oregano and thyme, to be wrapped in cheesecloth and added to the pot to infuse flavor.
Like making a great Italian tomato sauce, cooking fava is a labor love. It requires low heat and constant stirring to make it perfectly smooth. Often it is pureed in a blender at the end.
When the fava is ready to serve, the toppings can vary. Thin slices of red onion and a liberal drizzle of Greek olive oil are common. Sometimes it is topped with locally harvested and brined caper berries or caper berry leaves, or a few kalamata olives.
Proud of his fava

Proud of his fava

On our recent trip to Santorini, our most memorable fava dishes were a simple, rustic version with onion, capers, olive oil and a side of lemon at Dimitris in Amoudi, and a light-as-a-cloud creamy fava topped with caper berry leaves and olive oil at Roka in Oia.
Finding real Santorini fava can be difficult and expensive on line, but it is possible. You can easily find dried yellow split peas in local US supermarkets, but it’s not quite the same.
My personal touch–no surprise here–bacon! I finely chop and then fry a small amount of bacon and sauté it with the chopped onion, then add it (with the bacon fat) to the boiling pot of fava and water in the beginning.
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