Stringless green beans became widely available in Greece only in the last few years. As far back as I can remember, before we could cook this very popular summer dish we had to slave for hours trimming each one of the flattish beans – a kind of runner bean – that we cooked.
My mother often added sliced zucchini (see variation) when she wanted to save time, trimming fewer runner beans but still making enough food for all four of us. Fassolakia ladera, made with any kind of green beans, even with frozen ones, is an amazing dish! The potatoes take on a wonderful flavor cooked together with the beans in a rich tomato sauce, and I can’t resist eating them while still warm.
Sprinkle with the reserved parsley and serve warm or at room temperature, if you can wait, with crusty bread and Feta cheese.
You can make these very easy tarts with ricotta cheese or the equivalent Greek myzithra, or with the fresh cheese you can easily make from any combination of cow’s and goat’s milk. Serve them as appetizers, or accompany with braised greens for a delicious and healthy vegetarian lunch or dinner.
Makes 8 muffin-size tartelettes, or one 9-inch tart
It is fava time again, and this spring, after quite a long, wet, and cold winter, we seem to have lots of delicious, succulent pods.
Although we planted less beans last fall, the robust fava plants at the edge of our western garden are full of pods that I struggle to harvest before they grow large and stringy. We love eating them whole, much like green beans, as their velvety pods are tender and delicious. Over the years I have made the traditional braised fava with green onions and fennel, a more creative dish with preserved lemon and cilantro, and of course various kinds of fresh fava risotto, either with rice or orzo pasta. Inspired by a Spanish recipe by David Tanis I made a kind of fresh fava scrambled eggs, quite different from the traditional Greek island froutalia, the seasonal omelets with vegetables and potatoes.
Yesterday I cooked a new, apparently quite successful dish to showcase them: Inspired by the old, quick braised fava recipe with garlic, and both coriander seeds, and fresh coriander (cilantro) that I have in my Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, I created yet one more variation of the one-pot-pasta, this time with fresh fava and the two kinds of coriander/cilantro. Both Costas and I enjoyed it enormously, and we think that it is one of the best such simple pastas I made.
One-pot Pasta with Fava, Coriander Seeds, and Cilantro
1/2 cup good olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon coarsely ground coriander seeds
About 1 1/2 pound tender fava pods, ends trimmed, chopped into 1/4-inch slices
350 grams bavete, ditalini or a combination (this was what I had in my cupboard)
About 4 cups boiling water or vegetable broth, Or more, as needed
Salt and Aleppo or red pepper flakes, to taste
A large bunch cilantro, chopped —stems and all
Crumbled feta for serving
Warm the olive oil and saute the garlic and coriander in a medium pot, until the garlic starts to smell. Do not let it start to color.
Add the chopped fava and sauté 2 minutes, then add the pasta, turn a few times and pour in 3 cups of boiling water or broth. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring often in high heat for about 9 minutes, adding more boiling water or broth if it gets dry. Taste and if the pasta is almost al dente, stir in the cilantro, taste, correct the seasoning, and remove from the heat, making sure it has quite a bit of broth.
Cover and let sit for 3-4 minutes, before serving in bowls, sprinkled with feta, and drizzled with fruity olive oil, if you like.
Make it when you have plenty of vine ripened tomatoes. But in the winter, when good, ripe tomatoes are not available, use canned, or slice and roast the pale tomatoes available to intensify their flavor.
Instead of sugar, I sweeten the sauce with currents.
Beyond pasta, the sauce can be used on flat, breads complemented with crumbled feta or any other cheese. It is the basis for the vegetarian mousaka, and also for the stuffing for papoutsakia (eggplant slippers), with the addition of chopped, sauteed bell peppers and feta, graviera or any other cheese, with or without walnuts, or other nuts.
Yields about 3 cups sauce, enough for 1 pound pasta