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Greece can be a tricky place to visit as a vegetarian. It is, after all, famous for juicy lamb gyros and meaty moussaka and grilled, lemony fish. So when I visited the Greek island of Crete last year I subsisted chiefly on the wealth of dips: tzatziki, tirokafteri (spicy feta cheese spread), and, my personal favorite, fava. Actually made from yellow split peas (and not fava beans, as the name would suggest), this dip is incredibly simple—and yet somehow I could not stop eating it. I ordered it at every taverna I came across, and it was always exactly what I wanted: smooth, creamy, and satisfying—especially when topped with diced red onion and lemon wedges and served with homemade flatbread.
Since I returned from that trip, fava has been one of my go-to comfort foods, something I make when I'm feeling uninspired in the kitchen, or lazy, or overwhelmed. It's deceptively simple, yet so much more than the sum of its parts. With a long, hands-off simmer time and a few well-chosen seasonings and garnishes, yellow split peas turn into a silky dip that manages to soothe me and keep me full, with an absolute minimum amount of effort. If January has you feeling down, or if you just want to serve a different dip at your football-watching party and don't know where to turn, fava is here for you.
Making this dip is simple―almost absurdly so. All you have to do is cover some yellow split peas with water, bring to a boil, then add in half an onion, a few smashed garlic cloves, and salt. Good news: You're basically done! All that's left is to wait, occasionally stirring and skimming the foam off the surface of the pot, until the peas are tender and beginning to fall apart. Taste, adjust the seasoning, and swirl in a few glugs of your nicest olive oil; the stuff you use when you're actually going to taste it. Use an immersion blender to purée the peas to your desired level of smoothness, or just mash them up with a potato masher or the back of your spoon if you like your dip extra chunky.
Eat it straight out of the pot if you'd like, but to really enjoy this simple comfort food to the fullest, spoon it out onto a plate or serving platter, gild it with some more olive oil, diced red onions, fresh, flat-leaf parsley, and a shake of paprika. Tuck a few lemon wedges on the side to squeeze over the top and liven up the whole affair, and serve with a wealth of oven-warmed pita (you can even make your own, if you're feeling ambitious!). Leftover dip will keep in the fridge for up to a week; just reheat it over the stove with a splash of water to thin it out.
- 1 cup yellow split peas
- 3 cups water
- 1 red onion; half minced, the other half peeled but left whole
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving (use the nice stuff)
- Paprika, for serving
- Lemon wedges, for serving
- Parsley, for serving
- Salt and black pepper
When you're feeling overwhelmed or uninspired in the kitchen, what recipes do you turn to?