Centuries of Tradition in Vibrant Legumes: Two Recipes

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Meatballs with green fava and mint.
Meatballs with green fava and mint.Credit: Vered Guttman

There's a good reason that beans have been a popular source of nutrients and a preferred food all over the world for thousands of years. Lucky for us, the cheap legume has been around for so long. This makes it easy to find excellent recipes from different cuisines, recipes that have been tested time and again since the beginning of mankind.

The recipes below come from two ancient cuisines, the Levantine and the Georgian, with flavor as fresh as spring itself.

Meatballs in green fava beans and mint

Serves 6-8


For the fava beans:
24 oz. frozen fava beans, thawed overnight in the fridge, or 3 lb. fresh fava beans 
1/4 cup corn oil or olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons dried mint
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the meatballs:
1 lb. ground chuck
1/2 bunch flat parsley, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, grated
3 minced garlic cloves
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried mint
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

To serve: couscous or rice


1.    If using fresh fava, remove beans from pod, blanch them for a minute in boiling water, then remove the skin (if the fava is very fresh, just remove beans from the pods). If you’re using frozen fava, you can skip this step. 
2.    To make the meatballs, mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl, and knead for a couple of minutes. Roll into 2 inch balls, and flatten them a little with your hands. Set aside.
3.    Heat 1/4 cup oil in a non-stick pan with a matching lid over medium-high heat. When oil is hot but not yet smoking, fry half the meatballs on both sides until nicely browned, but not cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a tray. Continue with the rest of the meatballs. 
4.    Add fava, garlic, lemon juice, chicken broth, mint, paprika and salt to the pan and bring to a boil. Arrange meatballs among the fava beans, pushing them a little to the bottom of the pan. Cover with a lid, reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid and let simmer for another 10 minutes or until liquid has reduced by about half.
5.    Let stand for 5 minutes. Serve over couscous or rice.

Georgian kidney bean and walnut stew (Lobio Nigvzit)

Georgian kidney beans and walnuts stew (Lobio Nigvzit).Credit: Vered Guttman

This is a quick (speedy!) version of the Georgian classic stew of kidney beans with walnuts. It is usually prepared as a salad, in which cooked beans are mixed with freshly chopped onion, cilantro and walnuts. In the version below the beans are cooked with onion and spices for a milder flavor.

Traditionally, this stew is seasoned with Georgian khmel-suneli, a mix of spices including fenugreek, coriander, marjoram and oregano. It is available in some Eastern European stores. To make life (kind of) easier, I used just fenugreek, which is available in Middle Eastern and Indian grocery stores and online. If you can’t find fenugreek, just omit it from the recipe. 

Serves 4-6


1/4 cup walnut or corn oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Two 15 oz. cans kidney or black beans 
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped (preferably roasted)
1 cup chopped cilantro


1.    Heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until golden, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain most, but not all, liquid from the canned beans and add beans to pan. Grind fenugreek with a mortar and pestle, and add to pan along with coriander and salt. Mix, lower heat, and cook for 3-4 minutes until tastes combine. Taste and adjust salt.
2.    Transfer beans to a serving bowl, sprinkle with chopped walnut and cilantro, and serve.

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