My dear friend Stacy used to make fun of me for only liking Asian food. My first year in the US, she took me out to a Middle Eastern place & a TexMex place when I visited her in Houston. The classic Greek/Middle Eastern stuffed grape leaves were a bit too vinegary for me, and I don’t even know what the Tex-Mex dish was because everything was buried under melted cheese. Let’s just say my forray into exotic food wasn’t successful.
I don’t think it was Stacy’s fault, though. She has good taste, so maybe those restaurants were just…not right for me, or something. Also, if you eat something you didn’t grow up with, it definitely takes some getting used to. I still remember feeling nauseous after eating raw fish for the first time (and now I just cut off pieces of a sushi-grade salmon steak and eat it like it’s candy). I also remember eating only rice and nan the first time our VSA group went to an Indian restaurant, as I ordered a lamb dish and could not stomach it because of the gaminess (and look at me now, a kitchen full of lentils, fennel seeds, mustard seeds…all thanks to a year of living with an Indian landlord). Taste is a mysterious thing, but it can change, if you’re open-minded enough 🙂 I still think the Tex-Mex dish back then was horrid (relax with the cheese, please), but I looooooove this little tacqueria right next door to our apartment. The trick is to try it twice – if your friend takes you to, say, a Morocan place next time, demand that you guys come back, even if you can’t swallow anything the first time (that’s my plan too – D’s friend made a chocolate Morocan chicken dish (Chicken Mole) and um, all I can say is…it was interesting. Need to try Morocan again!).
Ok, enough ranting. Here’s a dish I made using all these foreign ingredients and spices, not really according to any recipe but from what I’ve watched my landlord do with her spices and food. Wish we had curry leaf, but the fenugreek seeds were the perfect substistute. I LOVE the smell of fenugreek. Other than that, this was the perfect vegetarian main dish or side/salad dish. I did mix this later with sauted potato leaf that we got from the Korean market. Was delicious!
a pinch of black mustard seeds
a pinch of corriander seeds
a pinch of fenugreek seeds
a pinch of cumin seeds
A cup of fava beans
A cup of chickpeas
Half an onion
Salt to taste
Step 1: depending on how you like your chickpeas, you can soak it for a whole day in water then boil it in water for about 30-40 minutes (until tender/texture that you like). I didn’t have time, and also don’t mind it crunchy, so I soaked it for about an hour and boil it for another hour.
Step 2: while chickpeas are cooking: coarsely grind all your spices together. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet/frying pan until it boils (if you stick a chopstick in and there’s bubbles around it), and toast the spices in the very hot oil. be careful, the mustard seeds might pop out!
Step 3: Coarsely chop/slice the onion and saute it with the spices and the fava beans. Throw in the chickpeas when they’re ready. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
*Note: I used a cast-iron pan so the fava beans and the chickpeas came out nicely “roased” (in a pan instead of in the oven). You can also roast the fava beans and chickpeas together in the oven and toss it together with the spices.