I am used to eating hummus the traditional American girl way. I either buy a tub floating with pine nuts and olive oil at Trader Joe’s for big parties as a dip for crunchy pita crackers or I adventure out to my favorite Armenian market for their ultra dense version of the chickpea paste when creating lavish middle eastern finger food spreads for college football weekends parked near the coffee table. Hummus has always been a condiment for me. That is until I was sent an email by a gentlemen named Hattem Nigma about his company Fava offering curious varieties of hummus made out of fava beans instead of the customary garbanzo* bean.
Having grown up in Egypt, Nigma’s favorite food was the fava bean and after immigrating to the United States he missed his mother’s traditional dishes. He created his own brand of hummus. After sharing his recipes with customers of a friend’s teashop, his assortment of Fava hummus became so in demand that he started his own company.
I love fava beans because they are rich in L-Dopa, a precursor to the neurotransmitter Dopamine that promotes good mood, memory and stamina. I anticipate their yearly return to the Cute Gardener’s yard when I am able to shuck and sauté them weekly as an addition to pastas, simply plain cooked in olive oil and salt. I never imagined the idea of turning them into hummus until I gave a bushel to my friend Leslie and she told me that she had successfully done a twist on the hearty dressing. So when Nigma asked me to review his product, I gladly jumped at the chance.
Six tubs arrived promptly in the mail and I learned that not only were the products all natural but also GMO free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, soy free and heart healthy. As I surveyed the different types I noticed that the ingredient lists for each centered around extra virgin olive oil, fava beans, tahini, lemon juice, sea salt and only one or two other additions depending on their flavor such as spices, olives or peppers. The CG (who is not a heavy spice or heat person) and I (who am a solid seven-eight at Indian restaurants) spent some time on the weekend dipping crackers into all the brands to test our favorites. He liked the kalamata olive version because it tasted heavily of olive as well as the roasted garlic version, which was bright and lemony. I preferred the classic tahini for dipping but the spicy Calabrese and the roasted red pepper versions for cooking. The fire-roasted eggplant was a smoky twist on baba ganoush but was probably our least favorite. Overall I was impressed with the freshest and purity of the ingredients and the lack of preservatives.
I was happy to find a recipe card that portrayed various ways hummus can be incorporated into mealtime. This is where the fun began. I set off experimenting. The first night I made a one-pan sauté of garlic, olive oil and about four cups of freshly chopped kale. Once the greens were wilted, I threw 8 ounces (one tub) of the red pepper Fava hummus in and mixed it all around. Although the directions called for spinach and suggested serving the greens over rice, I ate the whole thing plain like I would a side of greens. It was delicious. The red pepper hummus was spicy and accentuated the dark heartiness of the kale, standing up to it with an earthy and rich base tone. I never would have thought to throw hummus in with greens but the bean-y texture and smooth mellow taste of the fava opposed to the normal thick, tangy taste of the chickpea made it a perfect marriage to both pump up and diversify the typical prepared green. In thinking of hummus as a sauce now, the possibilities seemed endless and future dinners suddenly loomed quick and easy.
I eat huge amounts of greens per week and grew very excited when realizing I could switch up tubs of flavored Fava hummus to shake up the monotony. There’s something about the comforting richness of the Fava hummus that contradicts even the most bitter chard leaf and turns it into a melt in your mouth dose of vitamineral scrumptiousness as I found out with my own recipe below.
SWISS CHARD AND FAVA BEAN HUMMUS RICE BOWL
Makes two bowls
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
1 small red chili pepper, deseeded and minced
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
9 big leaves of swiss chard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 cups cooked basmati rice
8 oz. Spicy Calabrese Fava hummus
In a large skillet, sauté the onion and red chili pepper and mustard seeds in olive oil for about 3 minutes until softened and seeds start to pop. Add the greens, season with salt and pepper, and wilt until tender for about six minutes. Stir in the vinegar and the hummus and blend evenly. Spoon half of the mixture over one cup of rice in a bowl and the same in another bowl. Serve!
The last remaining smears of Fava hummus left after my week of experimenting will serve as daily dollops on eggs –another amazing combination for the almighty fava spread or perhaps as an addition to a cold summer pasta salad.
*I don’t know why I am privy to overhearing so many arguments in various grocery store lines about the difference between chickpeas and garbanzo beans, but let me just settle the score here – they are the SAME thing.