Sunday, May 23, 2010


Well now that Lemon Week is over, time for regular ole bloggin'.  Although I did find that I liked having a theme week.  Won't be able to do it all the time but I'm thinking of adopting some themes once in a while for posting. One of these days I'll do Assyrian week- I promise.

Speaking of Assyrian dishes, let me take a moment to describe, in one word, what 99% of traditional Assyrian food consists of: shirwa (otherwise known as stew). Chicken and curry shirwa, beef and bean shirwa, veggie shirwa, shirwa with kibbeh, shirwa shirwa shirwa. We loooooooove shirwa.

And really what's not to love? It's easy, healthy, relatively cheap and a big pot is enough to feed a whole family for a week. I don't cook shirwa that often since I'm only cooking for one, but I still love it just the same.

Now dolma is my most favorite Assyrian food, but "shirwa'it fasoulia" (bean stew) is up there with my all-time faves.  It's a tomato-y stew with chunks of tender beef and green beans. And while the beef is delicious, the reason I love the stew so much is because of the beans. And they're not just any old beans, no siree. Chinese long beans are the key.

What are Chinese long beans? They're like the skinny sister to green beans.  And why are they called long beans? Because they're freaking long!

Other than the stew there's only one dish I know of that my mom used Chinese long beans in. It was a super simple "salad" that was fresh and tart and so delicious.

It's basically just steamed beans with lemon, garlic, salt and my mom's secret ingredient (gotta read on for the secret...) Everything is basically to taste, but I know that if you've never had a dish before you don't really know what it's supposed to taste like. So I was good this time and made sure to measure everything out, just to give you a sense of ratios/amounts. Feel free to play around and add/subtract whatever you like.

Buen Provecho,

Fasoulia salad, adapted from Mama Benjamin


1 medium sized bunch of Chinese long beans
small clove garlic, mashed (1/4 tsp, more/less to taste)
3+ TBSP lemon juice
1+ TBSP olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt (less if using regular table salt), more/less to taste
optional: citric acid (1/8 tsp) or unsweetened lemon kool-aid, to taste (aka secret ingredient)


1.  Steam long beans and cut into ~ 1" pieces. (I had just over 2 cups of chopped beans from the bunch I bought. Yours might vary depending on the size.)

2. Toss together the beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and citric acid/kool aid.

3. Place in a large shallow container (to allow maximum contact between the beans and the liquid "marinade" and allow to sit in the fridge for the flavors to marry, at least a few hours (ideally overnight).  It takes some time for the beans to really pick up the flavors.  I like to give the container a shake everytime I get something from the fridge to mix them up a bit.

4. In the evening during a late night craving or that period of time before dinner when you just want to stuff your face, grab the container and a fork and go to town. It's a hell of a lot healthier than a bag of chips, and the tart garliky-ness just hits the spot.

Note 1: beware of using too much garlic- it's raw and the flavor intensifies as the beans sit. Before adding more garlic I'd let the dish "marinate" for a while. If you still feel the flavor isn't strong enough, then go ahead and add more garlic.)

Note 2: I like adding the citric acid or kool-aid because it gives more lemon flavor without making the marinade too liquidy.  It's like a concentrated shock of citrusy flavor.  Especially the lemon kool-aid. It's not as tart as the citric acid but more lemony in flavor.  They're definitely optional, but if you're a lemon fiend like me you'll like the additional kick.


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