Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Georgian Bean Dream!

Georgia is the land of spices. Every time I go, I end up coming back to Armenia with bags upon bags of them. The last time I went with my sister and Gohar, I was able to send some back to my mom, and asked her to let me know what she thought of the khmeli-suneli in particular. She wrote me an e-mail about a month later saying she enjoyed the "hirili mirili" that I sent her.

Whereas in Armenia salt and oil tend to reign supreme (love you), in Georgia, especially in the bean and greens dishes I have tried, there tends to be a wonderful mix of a bunch of different spices. After eating one bean stew/soup in Kobuleti, Gohar and I put our foot down and got the names of most of them. It was just too good to remain a secret.
I've failed many times at even resembling those beans I tried, once putting way too much khmeli-suneli and of course inviting friends over for "Georgian food" all pretentiously. It was horribly bitter and we just spent the evening trying to drown out the flavour unsuccessfully.

After going back this year, and trying more bean dishes, I was convinced I could mimic it - again all pretentiously. I bought another round of spices and decided today would be the day.

I used kidney beans, and as is the case with most types of beans, soaking overnight is the key to everything. Unless you enjoy cooking beans for hours upon hours, and still having them left tough, you have to rinse and soak them for at least one night. Beans from the shuga, just like lentils, are very grimy and after rinsing these I swear there was a handful of sand at the bottom of my pot.

When you're young and wild, cooking beans on high heat with no lid seems like the best way to get things done. As you mature, you realize your mom was actually right when she said low-medium heat with the lid on. My mom also always warned me of not giving in to my short attention span and leaving the general kitchen area so I will pass on that warning to all of you as well. This is serious business.

So here are the ingredients you need for this dish and the instructions, broken down!

Ingredients:
-2 cups kidney beans (black is traditional)
-1 bunch fresh dill
-1 bunch green onions
-Khmeli-suneli (just don't overdo it, add a little at a time and taste)
-Turmeric (2 tsp)
-Georgian spiced salt (the red one is so good, add it to taste)
-Other greens like spinach or beet leaves (optional) - I used spinach and a loner parsley sprig hiding in the bunch.
-Tahini drizzle (optional)
-Pinch of seeds (optional)

Directions:
-Cook beans until soft--even mushy. Remember, the reason most people have trouble digesting beans is because they are 70% of the time not cooked well enough. Soft = less problems (don't send me hate mail if you get gas hajis). Use just enough water to fully cover the beans and then some, but it's better to keep a kettle with hot water nearby in case you need to add more. This is meant to be a thick stew-esque dish, not a soup, so better to add water gradually than put too much and end up with stew's arch nemesis: soup.
-Once the beans are soft, lower the heat and add the khmeli-suneli, turmeric and spiced salt.
-Chop up the dill, spring onions and other greens you want to use and add them to the dish and stir.
-Turn off the heat, put the lid back on, and allow everything to mesh together. You can leave the kitchen now.

The dish is now complete in the ways that matter. But add-ons are my specialty and I felt like impressing my room mates because of the horrible version I tried to make the year before. Once I put everything in a bowl, I drizzled on some tahini (calcium power!) and sprinkled on some pumpkin seeds to COMBINE PROTEINS!
It smelled great and tasted amazing, and it was very similar to the ones I had tried in Georgia, but I think the main difference was the type of bean I used and mine had less liquid in the actual bowl. I will try this again with black beans next time for sure.

This dish got the room mate stamp of approval!
Bean party!

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