I don't understand football, but America, you had me at "bowl."
Can I knock your wall of Velveeta to the dirt? No contest. Can I do it in under 20 minutes? Try 18. For me, there's really only one challenge left. When you can snatch the spork from my open palm, grasshopper, and prepare this toothsome, fresh-tasting mezze yourself, I'll take my win.
To inspire you, I deliberately conceived this trio of lushly flavored, aromatic, hearty mountains of snack to parallel the ubiquitous pseudo-Mexican three-way dip combo of convenience store infamy. But what a difference! Instead of runny queso-in-a-can, here's a bricklet of melting, salty feta bubbling under herbal honey. Bland-tasting yet Purina-smelling bean dip is replaced with ful medames ("fool muh-DAH-mesh")—sweet, rich fava beans blended into velvet, the addicting breakfast of choice for tens of millions of Egyptians. And in place of ketchup-y, tin-tasting tomato salsa, a chunked-up take on pesto you'll want to scarf with both hands, based on the Mediterranean trinity of olives, peppers, and walnuts and named—by my brother, who gave me the recipe—simply, "Kashmir."*
You need a playbook to execute like a pro. I've blended these recipes from their standard format into a single game plan to eliminate the mental muscle strain and site clutter of three sets of instructions, and I've drawn a little diagram that shows you how several of the ingredients and steps re-combine for economy of motion and of, well, economics. This spread of spreads will go further among your guests than almost any amount of the usual stoner dip, so whether you use fresh, raw ingredients or canned, you're saving more than your reputation.
ROASTED FETA, FUL MEDAMES, AND KASHMIR MEZZE
Assemble your ingredients. They're listed without repetition below, but group them like the diagram.
For everything, you'll need:
For the feta, you'll also need:
An 8-ounce slab Greek feta, blotted dry
A tablespoon Greek thyme honey, or other honey plus thyme or other herbs of your choice
For the ful medames, aka the favas, you'll also need:
2 15-ounce cans fava beans, drained and rinsed, or 2 pounds fresh shelled fava beans
2 teaspoons ground cumin
A quarter teaspoon cayenne
For the Kashmir, you'll also need:
1 cup walnut halves
Half a cup pitted black olives
A quarter cup capers, drained
A teaspoon anchovy paste
2 roasted red peppers, sliced into strips (save yourself an hour and buy a jarful)
Half a cup dry breadcrumbs
Clock: Zero to 8 Minutes
Put the feta on foil in an oven-proof dish and pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over it. Bake it at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Warm a tablespoon of honey and add herbs, if you're using them, when done. This goes on the feta later.
While the feta's in the oven, put the fava beans into a saucepan, cover them with water, bring them to a boil, and cook them till tender, 6-8 minutes. Drain them, add a quarter-cup of lemon juice, a quarter cup of olive oil, the cumin, the cayenne, 4 cloves of mashed garlic and salt and pepper to taste, and mash them.
Clock: 8 to 16 Minutes
Pour the honey over the feta and broil it till the top of the cheese browns and starts to bubble, about 6 minutes.
Meantime in a saucepan, brown 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic in 3 tablespoons of hot olive oil. Add the walnut halves, the olives, the capers and the anchovy paste. Stir for a minute, add the peppers and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring now and then.
Clock: 16 to 18 Minutes
Take the feta out of the oven and lift it out of the foil onto a serving plate. Spoon the favas onto a serving plate, drizzle them with oil and sprinkle them with chopped parsley. Mix the bread crumbs and chopped parsley into the Kashmir and put it onto a serving plate. Serve your mezze with warm pita bread, tortillas, vegetables, chips, or whatever else brings it home.
* You may notice that after a taste of that Kashmir, your guests don't stop but instead start to shovel it in, nodding in rhythm, as though to the polyphonic opening progression of a certain Led Zeppelin tune.