LAUNDRY DAY FOOD FROM THE NIGHT COUNTER: MAJADERA

In The Night Counter, Amir promises his grandmother Fatima that for dinner he is not eating quiche, or gay pie, as he explains it to her, but rather

Laundry Day Food

majadera, a food with a whole lot less glamour to it than quiche and a whole lot more gas.  But dress it down or dress it up, majadera is a perennial favorite.  Not because it’s cheap, easy, and fast, not even because it’s rich in vitamins and fiber and made from ingredients that are always in the pantry.  Those were the reasons it was prized in the past.  Today majadera is just simply good food.

Majadera is so simple to make that you shouldn’t serve to company, or at least that’s what my mother used to say.  She got that from her mother, who called it “laundry day food,” because it was the only thing she had time to make on the days she had to take care of the laundry of a family of nine without the awareness that somewhere in this world laundry machines existed.

Majadera has come up in the world, as vegetarian food is no longer for the poor man’s table.  It seems to be more standard in mezze today and expats order it by choice.  But the basic recipe hasn’t changed, still pretty much the same if you can call it a recipe at all.  You can use bulgur wheat or the more common rice.  You can serve it with the lentils and rice still holding their shape or you cook it into a mush.  But the one thing you can’t leave out is the caramelized onions that must cover the top.

Cheap, easy, and fast doesn’t usually mean great when we talk about most things in life but there are always exceptions and majadera is one.

BASIC MAJEDERA

Two cups lentils
One cup rice
Three large onions, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt, pepper to taste
Cumin, optional

Boil the lentils with more than enough water to cover.  When the lentils are very soft, about 45 minutes to an hour, add the rice, and cook for another half hour, until rice is tender.  Remember to make sure there is enough water in the pan, as the rice absorbs so much.  Add salt and pepper to taste (it will need a lot of salt).  If you like, add a little cumin, which isn’t traditional, but I know a few people who use it.

Meanwhile, fry the onions until caramelized.  Spread the majdera on a platter and cover with the fried onions.  Serve with yogurt, pickles, and chopped tomato salad* on the side.  Good hot, cold, or at room temperature.

To Mexican-Americanize it a bit, salsa is an easy, perhaps I might even say superior, substitute for tomato salad.

Jordan’s National Dish: Mansaf

It’s Friday in Jordan.  Family get together day.  Mansaf day.  The first time I went to Jordan, my uncle took me to Jabri.  “This is the only decent restaurantDSCN0130 in town,” he said.  “Order the mansaf.”  I did and found myself faced with an almost intimidating amount of rice generously topped with lamb shanks simmered in a salty, pungent dried yogurt whey sauce that made me want me to gag.  This was the 80’s and I remember thinking that “gag me with a spoon” could be taken literally.  After a few more spoonfuls it became tolerable.  That was years ago.  Today, I still haven’t learned to crave mansaf, as so many people here in Jordan do, but I love Jabri, in part because the other food it serves—Levant food from its Syrian origins– is really good and in part because one of the few things always recognizable in Amman’s ever changing landscape is the bright lemon yellow sign of Jabri & Sons.
Jordan’s capital, is no longer the quiet, almost provincial city it was when I first visited some 20 years ago, let alone in 1935, when Subhi Jabri took over his Syrian-born father’s restaurant and began turning mansaf, a traditional Bedouin creation, into Jordan’s national dish. In fact, Jabri & Sons has been the exclusive caterer to four generations of the Jordanian royal family, not to mention hundreds of families that have it delivered for Fridays and special occasions.
Today, Youssef Jabri, one of Subhi’s four sons, is the company’s public face.  I met him a couple years ago while working on a magazine article.  At 48, Youssef is a British-educated intellectual who himself would make a witty guest at one of King Abdullah’s official dinner parties, events which he personally supervises, much like his late father did before him.
Youssef also oversees the ingredients that go into the food, most of which come from the rural Jordan Valley, where he likes to remind you Jesus was baptized and where the mystical curative powers of the Dead Sea have drawn in tourists for centuries. “My family takes pride in what Jordan’s land offers, from the meat we serve to the olive oil from a local press,” says Youssef.  “We’re always committed to the unique flavors of authentic Arabic food.”

RAMADAN IN DETROIT

Ramadan in Detroit

Ramadan in Detroit

Here in Abu Dhabi Ramadan is essentially a national event, a month of family celebration as well as religious significance, with virtually every Emirati fasting.  In THE NIGHT COUNTER, Fatima doesn’t talk about Ramadan but she is someone who fasts the whole month.  Fatima spent most of her life in Detroit, which is the largest Arab community in the U.S., and Ramadan there is almost like being transported back to Beirut or Amman.  I know this because I spent quite some time there in 2003 working on a cover story for Saveur magazine on Ramadan, focusing in on the charming Rana Abbas and her family.  Much of what appears in THE NIGHT COUNTER about Detroit I learned on that trip.  On the occasion of Ramadan, here is that article again.

FROM SAVEUR MAGAZINE (Cover, December 2003)

FEASTING AFTER DARK

For Muslims across the world, all roads lead to Mecca.  For Arab Americans, there’s a short cut that leads to Dearborn, an inner suburb of Detroit strung together by strip malls and fast food chains and anchored by the famed Ford River Rouge Plant, a National Historic Landmark that by the mid-1920s was the largest manufacturing complex in the world.  Arabic calligraphy forms the signs on many of Dearborn’s stores, Middle Eastern pop music booms from the car stereos of teenagers cruising the main drags of Warren Avenue and Schaefer Road, and the local MacDonald’s proudly serves halal Chicken McNuggets, i.e. chicken slaughtered by merciful Islamic law before it is compressed, molded, and shipped here.

Some say Detroit, with Dearborn as its hub, is the largest Arab city outside the Middle East.  Unquestionably, Detroit has loomed large in Arab American lore since the early 1900s, when the first wave of Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, arrived here to work on Henry Ford’s assembly line.  They have come from across the Middle East – from Yemen to Syria and Egypt. Each ensuing Middle East crisis has spurred a new wave, the largest being from Lebanon and the latest from Iraq, a steady stream that began after the 1991 Gulf War. White pages in the greater Detroit metro area are filled with Arabic last names, many of families who have long ago assimilated.

Arab Americans, like other ethnic groups, have remained connected to their heritage primarily through food, which aside from a shared language is the most common link amongst Arabs, no matter their original nationality or religion. Arabic food, give or take a few different spices, is Arabic food, and generations have come to Dearborn to shop at its grocery stores, buy sweets at its bakeries, and dine in its many restaurants. At no time of the year is this more apparent than during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, the month I arrived to this city that as an Arab-American I had heard about since childhood.

While I am someone who questions religion more than practices it, I do know the basic pillars of Islam, and fasting is one of them: so they understand sacrifice and empathize with the poor and hungry, Muslims cannot eat or drink from sunrise to sunset during the entire month of Ramadan.  However, what I didn’t know was how this was observed in an American neighborhood that has more Arabs than most villages in the Middle East.  The person who helped me map that all out was my friend Rana Abbas, a 23-year old Dearborn native I had met through mutual friends and whom you can’t help but describe as bubbly and vivacious.

“Detroit is a big city, you know, but when it comes to the Arabs it’s a small town,” she told me with her distinctly nasal Michigan accent, as she highlighted the key shops of Dearborn on a map. “Everyone knows everyone’s business, even if you don’t want to.”

With the use of Rana’s homemade map, a quick tour of Dearborn in the afternoon, revealed a bustling atmosphere that I quickly recognized from Ramadans spent in the Middle East – with a little slush and sleet thrown in for Midwest ambiance.  Like in the Middle East, fasting shoppers, with surprising energy in their steps, scurried from store to store getting the final ingredients for the dishes they were preparing for iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast.  Crates of dates, the food traditionally eaten as fasting ends, were present in nearly every store, as was jalab (a raisin and rosewater julep), apricot juice, and tamarind juice, beverages that are often the first liquids sipped at iftar.

When the sun sets during Ramadan, the streets of Dearborn become deserted, with everyone at home with their families eating.  However, every night after iftar, Dearborn takes on a festive mood, come snow or rain, that lasts into the wee hours of the morning.  Rana suggested that I check out Sinbad’s, one of her favorite night spots, in part because her fiance’s brother is a waiter there.  Sinbad’s, and a growing number of similar Dearborn establishments, is a smoky, darkly-lit coffee house of wooden tables and velvet and leather wall benches that provide a clear view of a stage surrounded by Middle Eastern brass kitsch. Iraqi-born owner Akram Allos brings in bands from around the country who provide largely mediocre, tinny cover versions of well-known Arabic pop tunes to an audience that nonetheless claps enthusiastically to the syncopated beat.  Most of the patrons are young men and women, many of whom are on dates or newly engaged.  Aside from each others company, what these burgeoning couples come here for are the 52 flavors of tobacco that Sinbad’s offers for hookah smoking, a bad habit which has seen a renaissance born of nostalgia both here and in the Middle East.

While Sinbad’s and other hookah cafes provide limited menus, Rana advised me that the place for serious post-iftar snacking is New Yasmeen, a spacious, brightly lit bakery with a chocolate-brown and mustard-colored mosaic-tiled floor, tiled Roman-style pillars, and a wall-size mural that depicts the idyllic, sun-bathed Mediterrean landscape of rural Lebanon.  The painting and the heat of the bakery’s ovens are a sharp contrast to the biting cold, ice and dark clouds of Dearborn at night, and it was a relief to step inside and take off the weight of my winter outer gear.

New Yasmeen produces more than 40,000 loaves of pita bread a day and never closes during Ramadan.  “Our busiest time is from 12 a.m. to 3 a.m., after people have gone to the mosque for their nightly prayers,” said Hussein Siblini, 38, a fair-haired, soft-spoken man of few words who owns the bakery with his two brothers.

Families and groups of young men and women in the latest Abercromie and Fitch crowd his brightly lit counter for sahour, the meal eaten late at night before going to bed to face another day of fasting.  They come to line their stomachs from Hussein’s wood burning brick oven with mushtah (a flat bread topped with sesame seeds and eaten with labaneh, a condensed yogurt) manaeesh, (an open-faced pizza topped with an olive oil, thyme, and sesame seed mixture) and ma’ajinates, savory pastries stuffed with either a lemony spinach mixture (fatyir bi sabanikh), a hard white cheese (fatyir bi-jibneh), or a soft beef or lamb and tomato mixture with sweet spices (lahma bi-ajeen).  Older customers shout out orders to the 15 energetic young men manning the counter for items made only during Ramadan, such as sahlab, a sweet and spicy hot milk thickened with powdered orchid root and topped with pistachios and kolaj, a deep fried pastry stuffed with cream and dunked in syrup.  To keep up with the Ramadan rush, some of New Yasmeen’s 40 cooks and bakers – young men in white aprons and older ladies in colorful head scarves, many trained back in Lebanon – work 18 hour shifts.

So prevalent is the profession of engineering amongst Arab Americans that there’s a joke in which a mother tells a new friend that she has a son, and the friend asks what kind of engineer he is. Hussein is no exception. As I enjoyed the tangy tartness of a sumac-laced spinach pie, he told me that he has a Masters in computer engineering from nearby Wayne State, but soon found it more fulfilling to use the education he got working in his father’s bakery in southern Lebanon.

The same is true for 42-year old Palestinian Khader Masri, owner of the popular Masri Sweets.  After arriving here in the early 1980s for his studies, he went back to his hometown of Nablus, on the West Bank, in1987 and realized he wanted to open a sweet shop in America similar to his late father’s famous Nablus shop, as a way of honoring him. A nearly life-size black and white photo of his father making kunafa, a sweet cheese pastry for which Nablus is particularly famous, hangs high over a counter lined with seven different kinds of baklava (assabeh, finger-shaped filo stuffed with cashews, and kolushkor, half moon-shaped filo with nuts, are among the most popular), harisi (a semolina cake drenched in syrup), crescent-shaped anise cookies and French-style cream cakes and sesame encrusted date petit fours.

I only had to tell Khader my mother’s maiden name for us to become instant friends, as there is a long tradition of marriage between her family and the Masris, probably making us cousins of some sort if we had had a couple of days to map out our family trees.  When he took me into the kitchen area, I met his wife, Susan, a petite woman who is the perfect counterbalance to his frenzied energy.  She manages the shipping business and their teenage son and daughter mill about, offering her clerical help if needed.

While Susan takes care of business in the back and Samer, a chatty 20-something Jordanian with the ability to wait on six people at once, manages the front, wiry and fast-moving, Khader overlooks a staff of 21 as he rolls out his homemade filo dough.  Under the fluorescent lights, white walls, endless white sheets of dough, white cheese, white uniforms, and white counters are tempered only by the brown and green hues of fresh nuts, black logs of ground dates, and shiny metal kettles of melting yellow butter.  Two thousand trays of baklava and cookies come out of Khader’s ovens every day of Ramadan. Workers, whom Khader trains on machines imported from Nablus and Damascus, mold cookies, man huge vats of dough, roll up pastry with pistachio nuts (from Turkey, never California, says Khader, because they’re too dry for baking), brush baklava with clarified butter, pour buckets of orange blossom syrup across the trays of sweets as they emerge from the oven, and line up variety trays in pretty patterns.

“See, very organized, very American, it’s like the Ford plant,” joked Khader, as he handed me yet another plate of sweets, insisting that I try everything at least once before leaving. “But I don’t want my employees to go crazy, so every day I change the rotation.  Everyone gets to do everything.  It’s non-stop work from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Ramadan to Christmas.”

Ramadan evenings bring in people wanting atayif, the traditional Ramadan dessert. After it comes off the griddle, this airy pancake is filled with a thick cream, cheese, or walnuts, folded, baked and dunked in syrup – and best eaten immediately.  Which is what I did, relishing the strong squirt of buttery, sweet syrup that comes with the first bite. The only problem is that it needs a cardamom-laced cup of Arabic coffee or a mint tea to temper the sweetness, as do all Middle Eastern desserts, but sadly it’s much easier to get a Coke than a hot drink in Dearborn.  Some traditions just don’t survive a new continent.

Nearly everyone at New Yasmeen Bakery and Masri Sweets fasts the whole month.  “When you work in the food business, it’s really hard,” says Hussein.  “Everything smells so much better.  Your senses are really sharp.  But it’s bearable because everyone is always in such a good mood.  There’s a real feeling of good will everywhere.”

Rana also fasts, as does her entire family.  I didn’t have a chance to spend an iftar with them, but the day after Ramadan I headed over to her house, where her mother was preparing dinner for Eid el-Fitr (Holiday of Breaking Fast), the day that marks the end of Ramadan (and fasting) and marks the first day of the tenth month.

Rana may be from the most well-known family in town, in large part because of their religious and civic accomplishments.  She is the public affairs director at American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), a national grassroots organization founded by U.S. Senator James Abourezk in 1980.  Her uncle, Haj Adnan Chirri, is the chairman of the board of trustees of the Islamic Center of America, which is spearheading the building of a new $12 million mosque that when completed will be the largest in North America.  The family’s legacy really began in 1949, when Rana’s grandfather, Imam Mohammad Jawad Chirri, was invited from Lebanon by the Muslim community to be its spiritual leader.  He went on to spend years advocating Islamic unity among American Muslims.

“He was invited to the White House three times,” boasted Fatima Abbas, his oldest daughter and Rana’s mother, as she walked across the oriental carpets in her Dearborn home the next day, pointing out the many pictures of her father that adorn the walls.

A dark-eyed woman with a deep, smoky voice that often breaks into robust giggles, Fatima continued to talk while she went into the kitchen to begin preparing the Eid meal for a few of her Dearborn relatives.  She wasn’t sure how many she had invited, maybe 12, maybe 20.  Hovering around her were Hana, Amanda, and Zeinab, her curly-haired nieces, helping her wash parsley and peel garlic.  They often hang out in her kitchen when they don’t have school.  With Arab Americans accounting for an estimated 60% of the Dearborn public school student body, the school board decided several years ago to make Eid an official two-day school holiday.

The girls began fasting half days when they were eight – their choice, they insist, not their parents’ – and all three are proud to say they made it through all of Ramadan this year.  After asking me if I loved hometown hero Eminem as much as they did and if I thought Justin Timberlake was cute, they told me that their aunt’s cooking was so good she should open a restaurant.

“Oh, please,” Fatima blushed, as she poured pan juices over three plump, paprika-brightened stuffed chickens browning in the oven.  “Everyone says that…I was a little worried this morning that I wouldn’t have enough food so I bought a leg of lamb at the butcher on my way back from my Eid prayers.”

The lamb was roasting downstairs, in the family’s equally crowded second kitchen.  In addition to the leg of lamb and the stuffed chickens, Fatima was also in the midst of making two other dishes:  fetee, a layered dish of toasted pita bread, chickpeas, yogurt (she makes her own), meat, and pine nuts and sheikh mashi, eggplants stuffed with spiced ground beef and baked in a tomato and pomegranate sauce until they’re soft enough to melt in your mouth. Meanwhile, the girls began washing dishes and Mohammad, the young man overseeing the prolonged construction of the house’s new addition got chewed out by Fawziah, Fatima’s frail 76-year old mother.

“God, I’m going to die before you finish,”she shouted with the aid of her cane.  He just smiled a beatific smile as Fatima laid out a plate of her homemade preserved olives and raised her eyebrows into a look torn between frustration and amusement.

Fatima wears a hijab, the white head scarf, in public.  Rana lets her long curls hang loose, as do most of the females in the family.  There are exceptions, like Haj Adnan’s 21-year old daughter Vivian, named for Vivian Leigh, who began wearing the hijab last year, a choice many young Muslim women have opted for in recent years.

Relatives kept filing in, each carrying a gift box from Masri Sweets or another sweets shop – the exotically beautiful Randa and Majeda (the nieces’ mothers, both devote Muslims and People magazine junkies), diminutive Rima (Fatima’s daughter in medical school), Rima’s husband, Randa’s husband, Fatima’s brother Ali, his kids, someone’s brother-in-law.  Two card tables were brought out to extend the dining room table.  Plates in a mish mash of china patterns were added as people kept coming in and the nieces were sent off to wash more forks and knives for the table.

Talk shifted seamlessly between Arabic and English and between food and politics, the staples of Arab American conversation. Rana’s eyes teared up when she talked about some of the hate mail and death threats they get at work. Her job at ADC is to deal with discrimination cases, and as the number of unwarranted firings and evictions has risen at such a sharp rate, it has taxed her personally, as well as the organization.

“We have always had an American flag at our office and journalists come in ask if we put that up after September 11.  It’s my boss’s flag.  He got it when he became an American citizen.  No one would ask someone from another ethnic group that,” Rana lamented, tossing a gargantuan bowl of fetoush, a pita bread, tomato, and greens salad traditional at Ramadan and Eid.  “The truth is we’ve done really well here.  There are Arab American engineers at Ford whose fathers or grandfathers worked on the assembly line.”

Rana’s mood perked up when her fiancé Hicham came in.  They met in Lebanon last year through a family set-up, on Rana’s first trip overseas. They both reluctantly agreed to meet the other and fell in love at first sight.  He moved to Dearborn to be with her and quickly become yet another helping hand in Fatima’s kitchen.

In the downstairs kitchen, Fatima got the humus started (her secret to getting the silky smooth texture of Middle Eastern restaurants is to keep the food processor running for 8 minutes) and went upstairs to do one of her five daily prayers.  Meanwhile, Abbas, her husband and a salesman at the nearby Ford dealership, arrived home with some jokes in tow.

But senses of humor were running low, squashed by hunger. After all, for the last month, they had all been eating at sunset, at 5:30 p.m. It was now 7:30 p.m. On the day when they weren’t fasting but rather holding out for Fatima’s cooking, the family was starving. The nieces walked around carrying protest signs demanding to be fed.  Snatching a plate about to be filled with food by one of her sisters, Fatima said she wanted to wait for Haj Adnan, also a salesman at the Ford dealership, as is another one of Rana’s uncles.

Someone said there was no point in waiting  – there wouldn’t be enough room for Haj Adnan’s family of five.  They would have to eat on the second shift, when even more people were likely to show up.  Still, Fatima insisted on waiting.  But when she noticed with horror that her nieces were about to indulge in Hostess Cupcakes to ward off their hunger, she finally gave in to her family. She gathered everyone around the table for a short prayer in her father’s memory.  Silence followed the prayer, but not devout silence. It was a silence tempered only by the quick swish of forks digging in for another mouthful.  Arms reached across other arms as people filled their plates, sampling everything, and sending bowls up and down the dining room table and two card tables.  The phone rang.  Haj Adnan and his family were on their way. The family intensified its eating, knowing that at least some of them would have to soon give up their seats and reset the table for Fatima’s second round of guests.

HOW TO TEACH AN FBI AGENT TO MAKE HUMMOS

In THE NIGHT COUNTER, Fatima is baffled by the FBI agent that visits her at home and claims to have a Middle Eastern background but doesn’t know how to make hummos.  A couple of years ago I wrote an article for Saveur about hummos and my own mother’s bafflement at its Americanization of  hummos, i.e. the need of U.S. manufacturers to give everything a “flavor,” as if it didn’t have enough flavor on its own.  There’s really no need for wasabi, pesto, olive tapenade, and pimento hummos.  It’s at its finest when its just the four ingredients man originally intended it to be:  chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, salt and MAYBE garlic.

Back when I wrote the article, I researched and learned a lot about hummos, but today I’m an expert on how to survive on it.  For my first year in Abu Dhabi, it’s been my main meal for probably 5 out of the 7 days of the week.  With everything being new to me, it became my comfort food and a staple that didn’t make me simutaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed,  like a lot of the multi-ethnic dishes that mirror the multi-ethnic world of Abu Dhabi.  I’m a food adventurer,  but sometimes you don’t want adventure. Hummos is just simple and uncomplicated, unlike everything else during the day.  And its even comforting to know that the same guy will be at the cashier at the Lebanese Mill and you’ll chat Middle East politics while you wait for your order.  And it’s the cashier at the Lebanese Mill that told me one day, “You’ve been looking too pale lately—go get a blood test.”  Turned out, he was right, I was very anemeic.  Hummos is pretty nutritious, but you can’t –or probably shouldn’t–live on hummos alone.

Here’s how Fatima expected the FBI agent to make hummos:

3 C. boiled chickpeas (or four cups, if planning on removing skins or using food mill).
1/2 cup tahini
3 to 4 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice (to taste)
1 small clove of garlic, crushed in mortar and pestle with salt
Salt to taste
Paprika
Chopped parsley

Remove skins from chickpeas (optional).  Place chickpeas in food processor and puree until the beans form a smooth paste (or process in food mill).  Puree beans for at least two minutes, pausing to scrap down bowl.

In a large bowl, mix chickpea puree with tahini and lemon juice. If mixture is too thick, add a tablespoon of warm water.

Place the mixture in a soup bowl and swish the hummos up the sides, creating a wide  well in the center.  Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil, leaving a little extra in the well. Garnish with paprika.  Place a teaspoon or so of parsley in the well.

Serve with pita bread, pickles, and olives on the side.

A Recipe From the Night Counter: Foul Medamos

In The Night Counter, Laila goes to the Arabic grocery in Detroit and decides for the first time in her marriage not to buy the ingredients to make her Egyptian husband foul.
Whether you write it out from Arabic as “foul” or “fool,” I’ll grant you that it doesn’t sound very appetizing in English.  But foul medamos is actually a staple of much of the Middle East, particularly Egypt, and an appreciated breakfast or late night dinner served up with hot pita.  Also know as “people’s food” because of its affordability, foul can be made so many different ways.  The only absolutely necessary ingredient that Laila or anyone else making foul would definitely need is the foul itself, which is dried fava beans that have been boiled until soft.  (Fava beans are also a key ingredient of another “people’s food”: falafel)

Many shops in the Middle East ladle up the steaming hot beans in a bowl and let you decide how to dress them—lemon juice and olive oil are a given, as is garlic usually.  But from there, you can go a lot of different ways—some like to mix it up with green chilis, others like to stir in chickpeas, still others prefer a swirl of tahini or to scoop it up with raw onions, some like it warm, some like it hot.  Here’s the way I imagine Laila would make it.

Foul Medamos

Foul Medamos from The Night Counter

Foul Medamos from The Night Counter

1 16-oz can fava beans, drained and rinsed
1 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 small green bell pepper, finely diced
1 bunch of green onions, sliced
1 Persian-style cucumber, seeded and diced (optional)
¼ c. of chopped flat leaf parsley
Juice of two lemons
6 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed.
1t ground cumin
¼ t. red pepper –or to taste
Salt to taste

Wisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, red pepper and salt into a dressing.  Add the fava beans, peppers, onions, and cucumber.  Mix together gently so that the beans don’t  fall apart.  Add in the parsley.  Serve at room temperature or chilled, but allow at least half an hour for flavors to mix.

I marked the cucumber as optional, but really it’s all optional.  In fact, I think I’ve been known to make the same thing but using black beans and corn instead of the fava beans and calling it a Mexican salad.  Of course, that brings me to my theory of the continents being connected once via the similarity in recipes that seem to be so dominant in both Egypt and Mexico.  Of course, war, occupation and conquistadors could also explain that away.  But I digress.