I first came across this Persian recipe by way of Madhur Jaffrey. While she is the queen of Indian cookbooks, she has also been a spokesperson for vegetarian food from the Middle East and Asia. That’s how I first ‘met’ her – through her World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking book which I had purchased from a used book store in Cincinnati more than ten years ago. I bought it because I mostly ate vegetarian anyway. And because I loved the illustration of the smiling sari-clad beauty with long flowing black hair, traditional but with a touch of the modern about her. I always wanted hair like that.
There are two recipes that I remember cooking right away. One was a Kashmiri dish called Haak which means collard greens. The other was the Persian dish using ghee, baby lima beans, swiss chard and dill. This was my first foray into collard greens and swiss chard, these being greens that are not used in South Indian cuisine. I loved the simplicity of these dishes and for a year, kept going back to these same recipes, over and over again.
After that year, I inexplicably forgot all about it till I had a hankering for it the other day. I still have the cookbook, one of the few that made the journey with me to Seattle from my previous home in Germany, but remember the recipe well. I went looking for lima beans at the Whole Foods a couple of blocks from where I live. I couldn’t find it, fresh or canned. But they did have fresh fava beans. I figured fava beans would work just as well. And oh, by golly, they were fantastic!
Fava beans were another first for me and I was glad I had searched online for how to cook fava beans. As I would have shelled the beans from the pods and thrown them into the pot not knowing they had to be peeled a second time! But some people do eat them without the peeling if the beans are tender. Here’s an excellent tutorial for how to prep fresh fava beans. And yes they are some work to prep, but they are SO worth it. Get your spouse, friends, kids, neighbors to help! It’s a great communal activity.
And here’s the Persian recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian Cooking of the East
Use the ingredient amounts in the recipe below as a guideline. A bit more or less is fine. Serves 2-3
- 1/2 cup fava beans, shelled and peeled
- roughly half a bunch of swiss chard, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch strips
- 4 stalks dill, finely chopped
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced small
- 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or butter
- 1 cup vegetable broth or water
- salt to taste
Heat the ghee or butter in a large pot or wok.
Saute the onion till translucent.
Add the swiss chard and fava beans, mix well and saute for 2-3 minutes.
Add the broth or water. Cover and cook on medium for 4-5 minutes or till the chard is cooked to your liking.
Add the dill, and salt to taste.
Lower heat and simmer for a minute before removing from heat.
Serve with fragrant basmati or jasmine rice. Or over quinoa.
Did you know that Madhur Jaffrey has also acted in movies? She was in The Guru and most recently in Today’s Special (with Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show fame). She was apparently the one who introduced James Ivory and Ismail Merchant! This is a woman of many talents!
And finally, get them fava beans before they go out of season! Hurry!