Thursday, July 7, 2011

Caspian Fava Bean Omelet

Or, more accurately, fried eggs amidst fava beans and dill.  That's not a bad thing, but I definitely feel like the description in my new book was a little off.  Maybe my definition of "omelet" is somewhat rigid, I was imagining using beaten eggs.  After actually reading the recipe instead of just skimming the ingredients and thinking, "this contains fava beans and a ton of garlic, awesome!" I realized that I'd basically be pouring four eggs into a pan filled with fava beans, dill, and spices.  I was a little concerned about how this vegetarian dish would turn out. Of all the new types of cooking I've tried recently, Persian seems the most challenging right now.  The ingredients are mostly familiar (except for some spices and fruits that aren't available), but the cooking methods are completely different from anything I'm used to.  So, I was a little apprehensive about cooking this dish.

According to my new cookbook, Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, the Persian name for this dish is "baqala qataq." There are several different ways to spell "baqala qataq," but from my searching, I learned that it's a dish from Gilan, a province along the Caspian sea.  I really wanted to see a picture of how this dish should look, but despite my fearsome google-fu, it took me several minutes to find a picture of what this meal should look like.  Thankfully, my meal looked somewhat like the picture, except that I mauled my eggs.

One thing that I will absolutely do the next time I make this: use fresh fava beans!!  The book specified fresh or frozen fava beans. My grocery store had neither.  So, I bought a 1 lb can of fava beans.  While the dish still turned out well, I think that the canned beans added more salt, and their texture was probably different from the real thing.  I also suspect that canned fava beans don't absorb water as well as fresh or frozen.  And lastly, removing skins from canned fava beans is a huge pain in the butt.  With fresh ones, a few minutes of boiling and they slide right off.  Not so with the canned beans.  I don't recommend them.

I should warn you that this picture is not pretty.  Canned fava beans are beige.  Also, one of my egg yolks broke.  And at the end, I wasn't quite sure if the yolks were done, so I stabbed them a few times with a butter knife.  And my pan was too big.  Despite its homely appearance, this dish tasted quite good!  I love fried eggs, and I'd venture to say that if you like them too, you'd enjoy this dish.  Think of it as fried eggs on top of some tasty sauteed beans with spices.  There is a ginormous amount of garlic in this dish, but its bite is taken out by the long cooking time.  And it's balanced out by 2 cups of dill.  Overall, this is a very flavorful, garlicky, dill-y way to eat fried eggs.  I made the full recipe this time, and it was too much food.  One egg per person is definitely okay, especially when serving this dish with rice and a small salad.
Maybe stabbing the eggs wasn't the best idea ever. 

I have yet to learn to appreciate the simplicity of plain rice, so I topped mine with a little sumac and Aleppo pepper.  The book suggested topping the rice with strained yogurt, but I already ate all the yogurt in my fridge.  My side salad had a dressing of homemade harissa mustard, white wine vinegar, and olive oil.  I was a little worried about how easily I would get the eggs out of the pan.  Thankfully Dave is a wizard with a large spatula and a wok tool.  The beans were surprisingly cohesive, and everything made it to the plate in (mostly) one piece.  A lot of people like to do "breakfast for dinner" some nights.  I'm not really a breakfast food person unless I'm having yogurt or oatmeal, but this is definitely a way for the breakfast-adverse to enjoy some eggs!

Caspian Fava Bean Omelet
From Food of Life
Serves 4, so I ate twice as much.  Not doing that again.

3 lbs fresh or 1 lb frozen fava beans.  (Don't use canned! Fava beans are supposed to be green!)
6 Tbsp olive oil or butter (I used olive oil)
2 cups chopped fresh dill (the recipe says you could also use 1/4 cup dried dill, but this feels wrong to me)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
5 more cloves garlic, peeled and grated (I used a microplane for this.  The point of the grated garlic is to add 1/4 tsp to each egg.  5 cloves is way more than 1 tsp, I had a lot left over.  I'd use 3 or 2 if they're huge)
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp sugar
4 eggs

1) Skin the beans.
2) Heat 3 Tbsp oil in a wide skillet over medium/ medium high heat until the oil is very hot.  Make sure your skillet isn't going to be too big like mine was.  Add the thinly sliced garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Then add the beans, dill, and other spices. Cook for one more minute. 
3) Add 3/4 cup water to the skillet.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the beans have absorbed the water.  (I only added 2/3 cup to my canned fava beans and it took a little over 20 minutes for them to absorb the water).
4) Spread beans evenly in the pan and make 4 holes in the beans.  Try to make them the same size and equally spaced so your eggs will look nice.  Add 1/2 tsp oil and 1/4 tsp garlic to each hole. Then carefully break one egg into each hole.  Try not to let the yolks break.  Re cover the dish and allow to simmer for 5 to 8 minutes over medium heat, or until the eggs are set.  (I did this for 8 minutes because I couldn't tell if my eggs were done).   Don't stab your eggs!
5) Serve with drained yogurt over rice or bread. 

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