It is amazing what one can create in the world of food with only the simplest of ingredients. Proof again that complex, obscure, and expensive materials are not what makes a cook great.
This particular dish known as fava should not be confused with the type of legume with the same name (though those are pretty darned tasty, too). This “fava” is made with yellow split peas cooked with onion until the peas are completely broken down and thickened, then served with a hefty drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, to then be scooped up with pita bread or toasts.
Since this dish is also completely vegetarian, it’s also commonly prepared during times of fasting in the Greek Orthodox faith. The biggest fasting period of all is before Pascha (or Easter), but there are other times where making these dietary “sacrifices” is called for. Trust me, you won’t feel like you’re sacrificing anything when you’re eating fava!
Given how fava is prepared it also has some flexibility in terms of how it can be served. Any temperature you want is fine, though keep in mind that the spread will be softer when it is warmer. By adding liquid it can be served more like a split-pea soup instead of a dip. It is typically served with bits of green onion and a hefty drizzle of good olive oil, but Kalamata olives and feta cheese also taste amazing with it as well. It is very versatile, so don’t hesitate to dress it up as much or as little as you want!
Fava (Greek Yellow Split-Pea Spread) Recipe
- 1/2 lb. dry yellow split peas (green peas can work in a pinch)
- 1/4 lb. sliced yellow onion
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 1/2 cups water
- salt to taste
- chopped green onion for topping
Put the oil and onions into a pot. Turn the heat to high until the onions start to sizzle, then drop the heat to medium. Continue to cook until the onions are wilted and translucent.
Add the water and the peas. Cover and return the heat to high. Bring the contents to a boil, then drop the heat down to maintain a steady simmer. Continue to cook until the peas are completely broken down and the contents are mushy, this will take about 30-40 minutes or so. As you get closer to the end, the fava will become very thick so you will need to stir fairly often to prevent scorching. If needed, you can add a little more water to completely soften the peas and to keep it from scorching, but don’t add very much as it is supposed to be thick.
Once the peas are completely soft and the whole mixture is very thick, remove from the heat. The traditional way to finish this is to use the back of a paddle type of spatula or spoon to mash everything against the side of the pot. Go ahead. I’m using a blender. I like traditional, but I am a bit busy. After the mixture is pureed, you can serve it right away, but it will be best if you allow it to sit a while to thicken more and to let the flavors blend. Serve the fava at any temperature you like with a hefty drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped green onion. Sliced Kalamata olives are also an excellent serving option!