The horticulturists among you already know that fasiolus is the scientific name for the bean family. Fasolada is a soup made of white, dry, medium-sized beans, vegetables and herbs.
While it is the Greeks’ favourite winter soup it is rarely found in the menu of a Greek restaurant abroad or of stylish restaurants at home. After puzzling over it for some time I have reached the conclusion that we are, silently, ashamed of fasolada: it reminds us of the time we were much poorer, when fasolia (beans) were the crop that kept us healthy and away from malnutrition. Beans grow easily on our mountainous areas, the mild Greek climate favours their growth and, after dried, they can be stored for months.
We find fasolada mentioned a lot by Karaghiozi, the miserable, hunchbacked hero of the Greek shadow theater. During the German occupation beans and other legumes saved a lot of people from starvation. Fasolada is also the subject of quite a few jokes: Being cheap and nutritious it is very often served to our soldiers during their military service. Now, during the financial crisis, fasolada is taking its revenge. It is one of the main dishes in all collective kitchens. Restaurants are slower at adapting even though they serve all sorts of legumes fasolada is still taboo. Maybe due to its reputation of producing unpleasant effects during digestion..
- Easy to make
Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Count about half a coffee mug per person.
Dice 2 large carrots, chop 2 red onions and cut four sticks of celery into strips.
Mix all ingredients in a large pot, add chopped ripe tomatoes or if not available a can of skinned and seeded tomatoes.
Add pepper now and salt half an hour later. Before serving add a spoonful of virgin olive oil per person.
Boil until the beans soften and the soup is thick.
Serve with olives and a lot of fresh bread.
The original fasolada is a vegetarian meal but you can adapt it to non-vegan friends by adding some sort of sausage or by using chicken or beef stock instead of water. There is also the “white” variation in which you do not use tomatoes but add oregano and lemon before serving. For colder climates add some chili peppers.
- Nutritional value
Fasolada is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. It improves stamina and energy.
Finally, in support of fasolada, I want torefer you to Umberto Eco’s article “It was the Bean that set the Pulses racing”, edited and translated by William Weaver from the Italian New York Times Syndicate.