From Too Many Chefs -

March 7, 2004
Is My Blog Burning? : Fuul's Errand

Is My Blog Burning? Well, earlier today, I almost wish it had, because I had a tartine tart-astrophe.

It's important to showcase the disasters with the successes. So I first present to you the disaster -

A Fuul's Errand

The idea was simple. Fuul Madamas with Mideastern flavors on top. How hard could it be? Fuul (or "Ful", or "Foul", or any of a dozen other spellings) is a traditional dish found across the Arab world, from Morocco to Egypt to Iraq and back. As I've experienced it, it's a delicious mix of fava beans (more about them later), garlic, olive oil, hot pepper, onion, tomato, and maybe a carrot or celery minced in. The whole thing is blended and served almost as a dip.

My first challenge was locating fava beans. You'd think that a bean made famous by a serial killer in an oscar winning movie like Silence of the Lambs ("I cooked and ate his liver with fava beans and a nice chianti (slurping noises)" would be pretty easy to find. Not in Chicago. Or at least, not in the yuppie part of Chicago where I live.

After much searching and asurances from various supermarket managers that I wanted lima beans or butter beans or even canellini, I was ready to give up. All of these are fine beans and can be used as substitutes, but I wanted authentic. Finally, I tried Fox and Obel near downtown. There will be songs written about this market. They have everything. They had dried fava beans and they were labelled as such.

Easy peasey from here out, right? Well, sure. I thought so. I jumped on the Internet and pulled down a few recipes for fuul. They differed greatly, but there were common themes. I "averaged" the recipes, boiled the beans for an hour (after soaking them overnight), and popped them out of their hard little shells one by one.

An hour later, I had semi-cooked fava beans and was ready to begin. I tossed in three tablespoons of olive oil and let it get hot. I chopped up an onion and tossed it in, letting it get soft in the hot oil. Next, I added three cloves of garlic, a chopped jalapeno that I'd seeded, and a bit of tumeric, mustard seed, coriander, salt, black pepper, tumeric, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Next a diced plum tomato went in. This is where I realized I'd burned the onion, which had been somewhat dried out from being half a leftover monster red that had been in the fridge for a few days. Ouch. And the mix was looking a bit dry. Lemon juice! I needed lemon juice.

I squeezed the juice of one lemon into the mix and the aroma took off. There was still a scent of sulfur from the singed onions, but the rest of the mix was pumping out good vibes. I added the shelled fava beans, a little more oil (it was all looking dry again). Maybe a little water, too (that's less dry looking, I guess) I reduced the heat to low, put the lid on, and let it sit for ten minutes.

When I opened it up, I realized I had moisture problems agin. Well, it was time to blend. We'll correct that moisture problem in the blender. More lemon juice, more water, more oil, more stirring manually when the blender wouldn't catch. Oy. Eventually, I got a paste that looked like a darker version of fuul. I tasted it.

It was just right except for the burned onion taste, which was strong enough to almost overwhelm the rest of the flavors. There was one other problem = the fuul's I have had were white and beautiful. This looked like dog food. Alpo, to be exact.

Nothing to be done for it at this point. I spread the Fuul's Errand (as I now thought of it) on some crusty French bread. What was needed were the other lighter flavors to make the tartine edible.

I sliced some roasted red peppers and laid them on top of the dog fo- of the Fuul's Errand. My wife hates olives or anything pickeled, so I put sliced black olives only on my side. On top of that, again only on my side, I put a sliced pickled beet. My wife is nearly perfect except for this aversion to all pickled or brined foods, so no beets for her.

She does like feta, so on top of both sides I put a bit of feta. If I'd had fresh mint, I might have put a sprig or two on both to crown the effort.

Here's the final product:

It was not bad except for that burned onion flavor. I encourage you to try this dish, but be very careful with the onion or purchase pre-made fuul. The overall concept is sound, just my execution was flawed.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at March 7, 2004 12:11 AM | TrackBack

Barrett, so sorry to hear that after all that effort it didn't really turn out. However, it made for very amusing reading! Glad to see your talent for awful puns is still so amazingly apt...

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 7, 2004 at 9:48 AM