Friday, February 16, 2018

Black eyed bean salad with spices and herbs

This Monday, it will be Kathara Deutera (Clean Monday), the first day of the Greek Orthodox Lent, and the day when the table will be set for a feast of seafood (octopus, shrimp, mussels, calamari), taramosalata, lots of dips and salads, legume dishes (fava, my favorite), lagana (Greek, Lenten, yeasted flat bread) of course, and halva, both sesame and semolina.

I wish I was back home in Athens for this day as my mom and grandmom make the best dishes for Kathari Deutera but instead, I’ll be here, in my little expat kitchen in the Netherlands, where I will be making a valiant effort to celebrate the day with as many dishes as time allows me to cook.

Legume dishes have a great place in traditional Greek cuisine and much more so during Lent. They are filling dishes, substituting the meat for protein intake, keeping you well fed and satisfied. Fasolada, fakes, fava are among my favorites and this one is slowly becoming a favorite as well. Not a stew or soup, but a salad. One of the best legume salads in my book, as all its flavors really appeal to my own particular palate. Hope to yours as well.

A salad of black eyed beans/peas that can be eaten either warm or cold. A salad flavored with fenugreek, fennel and coriander seeds, petimezi (Greek grape-must syrup) and fresh herbs.

It’s a quick salad to make, especially if you opt to use canned black eyed beans, a little more time-consuming if you choose to use dried beans. I tend to go for the dried ones as I prefer their flavor, but there’s no judgment either way.

The flavors are interesting from the warming spices, the meatiness of the beans, the hint of sweetness from the petimezi and the freshness of the herbs. There’s no need to overcomplicate a dish when the aromatics and spices have such a beautiful effect on it, no?

It’s perfect served as a main dish, together with some good bread and feta, and it can surely be served as a side dish/salad, to accompany fish or meat.

Black eyed bean salad with spices and herbs

I believe this could be equally delicious with other kinds of beans as well. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand, but I rather prefer the small black eyed beans because they are tender and have a slightly sweet and nutty flavor.

Yield: 2 servings

400 g boiled black eyed beans (homemade or from a can)
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
¼ tsp ground fenugreek seeds
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling over the top
2 medium-sized shallots, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 tsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp petimezi (Greek grape molasses)
Small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Small handful fresh fennel leaves, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper


If you’re going to boil your own beans from dried, rinse them under cold, running water, place them in a large pot and add 2 liters of cold tap water. Cover the pan and bring water to the boil over high heat. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, drain the beans in a colander.
Return the beans in the pot and add 2 liters of boiling water. Bring them to the boil over high heat, then turn heat down to medium-low and cook the beans until they soften. This may take anywhere from 30-45 minutes depending on the beans. Not all beans are the same so you need to keep an eye on them. You want them to be tender but not mushy. Start checking them after 30 minutes to make sure. One way to check doneness, apart from simply tasting one of the beans, is by pressing one with your finger; if it breaks easily, it is ready, if not, you need to cook them for a while longer.
Drain them in a colander and set aside.

If you are using canned/bottle beans, rinse them well and drain them before using them in the salad.

In a wide pan frying pan, add the olive oil and heat over a medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, turn heat down to medium-low, add the shallots and cook until they soften, for about 9 minutes, stirring often. Then add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute until fragrant. Then add the ground fennel, coriander and fenugreek seeds and sauté for 1 minute. Add the beans and warm them through if they are cold. Then add the vinegar, the petimezi, a little salt and pepper and mix through. Give it a taste and add more salt if needed.
Finish with the chopped parsley and fennel, mix gently and serve in individual plates or a salad bowl. Drizzle with some olive oil and enjoy!

You can either serve it war or cold. It keeps very well in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 2-3 days.


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