Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fassoulia (White Bean Stew w/Greens)

When I was growing up, my father used to make a delicious, garlicky stew with white beans and escarole. I hadn't thought of it in years, until one recent afternoon, when my partner and I encountered a version of it at a local Armenian restaurant, whereupon we ate a huge bowl of the stuff.

The effects of this lunch were twofold: 1. a case of serious garlic breath, and 2. a burning desire to recreate my dad's rendition. One of the many weird things about losing one's parents is that new ways to miss them keep cropping up; in this particular instance, the inability to call and ask, "Hey, you remember that white bean stuff with the garlic and greens? How did you make that anyway?"

Thrown back on my own resources, I went online and searched for "Greek bean stew," which brought up everything from green beans cooked with lamb to cold salads. Eventually, I hit on one that seemed pretty familiar, and after tinkering with the seasonings and exchanging the escarole for spinach, I came up with the following recipe. It's not exactly like my father's, but I actually think it's - shhhh! - even better. Hearty, a little spicy, and perfect with good, crusty bread: a big hit on a chilly autumn night.

Fassoulia (White Bean Stew w/Greens)
~ 2 cups dried navy, cannellini, or other white beans, soaked overnight
~ 2 tbsp. good, extra-virgin olive oil
~ 2 cups onion, chopped
~ 1 large carrot, diced
~ 1 large stalk celery, diced
~ 6-8 cloves of garlic, minced (at least 1/4 cup)
~ 1 tsp. kosher salt
~ 1/2 tsp. each: oregano, marjoram
~ 2 bay leaves
~ 1 tbsp. dried parsley
~ Fresh black pepper to taste
~ 5-6 cups vegan "chicken" broth (I swear by Better Than Bouillon)
~ 1 14 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes, including liquid
~ 10 oz. package baby spinach, roughly chopped
~ 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

~ In a large, deep pot, saute the onions, carrot, celery, garlic and spices in the olive oil until wilted, about 5-7 minutes.
~ Add the tomatoes and beans, and stir to combine.
~ Pour in the broth or water, cover, and bring to a boil.
~ Reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 1.5 - 2 hours, until the beans are tender.
~ Add the lemon juice and chopped spinach, and cook another minute or two, until the greens are just wilted.
~ Taste for seasonings, and serve hot or at room temperature.

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