Slow-Steamed Fava Spread with Cumin and Paprika

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves

    2 to 4

    ; makes ½ cup

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

Fava beans are never out of season, since you can always find them either fresh, dried, frozen, or canned, with recipes available for each type. Early summer farmers' markets will have the best selection of fresh, young favas.

In Turkey, in early spring, when fava beans first come into the market, they are cooked in their skins and pods. Turkish cooks simply cut the stringless immature favas into 1-inch lengths and soak them in acidulated salted water for 10 minutes to soften the exteriors. Then they stew them in olive oil and eat them whole as a cold appetizer.

An Italian-born Sonoma-based vendor of organic vegetables taught me a method of steaming beans in their pods and then peeling off both the pod and the skins at the same time, which has become my favorite way of cooking them. The favas retain their beautiful bright green color, and the flavor is vibrant, intense, and bittersweet, though cooking time is a bit longer.

Many readers are probably familiar with Italian raw favas served with pecorino cheese, or Spanish lightly blanched favas served with ham and mint as a small appetizer. In this Moroccan version, the steaming method yields a succulent yet slightly mealy textured spread of favas, crushed and flavored with garlic, lemon, olive oil, and spices. It's delicious with crackers, toasted pita, or warm semolina bread.


  • 1 pound young fava beans
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed with a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of hot paprika
  • Salt


  1. Steam the favas in their pods until tender, 5 to 8 minutes, depending upon their age. Cool under cold running water. Peel off both the pod and the outer skin of each bean. Drop into a small wide saucepan as you work.
  2. Add the garlic, half the olive oil, and ¼ cup water to the fava beans. Set over low heat and use a potato masher to crush the favas to a chunky puree, about 2 minutes. If necessary, thin with a little more water. Add the remaining oil and season with the cumin, paprika, and salt to taste. Let cool before serving.