It's a wonderful side and an even better dip—what’s not to love?

By Stacey Ballis
June 05, 2019
Stacey Ballis

As a Type 2 diabetic who is always working to both control my blood sugar and lose weight, the side dishes that we think of as carbs can be tough. I love a potato, and a rational amount of either white or sweet potatoes are fine, but I do have to be careful about how many calories I add with butter or other toppings or mix-ins, which means a fairly regular rotation of baked or steamed. Rice and grains, while good for me in terms of fiber, are very carb and calorie-dense, so other than switching up the type, it is still always a meager serving. And pasta is a much rarer treat these days.

So, when I was introduced to traditional Greek Fava, a dish of pureed yellow split peas topped with any variety of toppings, I was thrilled. The puree is flavored in the cooking with onion and carrot and broth, and then whatever toppings you choose bring extra punch. Legumes are far less carbtastic and bring a lot of protein to the party, making it a wonderful swap for potatoes, and the dish can be easily made vegetarian or vegan with no loss of flavor. Even better, it can be made on the stovetop, or in an Instant Pot, or a slow cooker, so you can adapt the recipe for the way you prefer to cook.

It is delicious at room temp or hot, you can use it as a dip or a side dish, or even swap it out for polenta and make it the star. When it is cold it solidifies, so you can press leftovers into a sheet pan or loaf pan and slice and pan-fry the next day for a great brunch item.

While the fava is delicious with just a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some flaky sea salt on top, it is a wonderful base for all sorts of things, making it a dish that is endlessly changeable, so once you have the base down, you can experiment with toppings to keep it fresh! 

Get the recipe: Greek Fava

Stacey Ballis

Here are some more ideas for toppings, both traditional and not:

A salad of fresh chopped ripe tomatoes and thin sliced red onion tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, and fried capers for crunch. Drizzle the oil you fried the capers in over the top.

Caramelized onions

Chopped herbs, parsley, dill, basil, chives and chervil are all great on this, and you can make a combination if your garden is in full swing.

Serve with a hearty ragu of braised pork shoulder or lamb shank.

A sprinkle of a great punchy spice like sumac, za’atar, or Aleppo pepper, and some roasted red pepper strips.

Crumbled feta and a thin drizzle of truffle honey.

A swirl of pesto, chimichurri, or salsa.

A sautéed mix of spinach and collard greens, or swiss chard.

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