Sunday, March 3, 2024
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Not just a crunchy garnish

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – Using chopped nuts to thicken and add nutrition to sauces and stews is common across many cuisines around the world. There are West African stews featuring ground peanuts, nutty Italian pesto sauces, and Indian dishes made creamy with ground cashews, to name a few.

In Georgia, (the country not the state), many traditional dishes are enriched with ground walnuts, including lobio nigvzit, a stew in which chopped walnuts are simmered with beans, aromatic spices, herbs, and tart fruit juice and/or sauce. This recipe is my spin on that dish – it departs quite a bit from the traditional but captures its exciting core flavours in a bright, weeknight-friendly way.

Using canned kidney beans makes the stew ultrafast and convenient. Once rinsed and drained, the beans are simmered with toasted, chopped walnuts, sautéed onion and garlic, ground coriander, pomegranate juice and broth until the mixture is saucy and thickened but the beans and nuts retain their texture. (If you want the sauce a bit thicker you can mash some of the beans in the pot with a spoon, and if you want it looser you can add some more broth or water.)

A brightening splash of vinegar, and chopped fresh parsley and cilantro are stirred in at the end, and the stew is served topped vibrantly with more herbs and a pop of juicy, sweet-tart pomegranate seeds.

It’s a colourful, filling meal layered with flavour and brimming with nutrients, a dish that feels both familiar and excitingly new at the same time, and it highlights one way of the many ways nuts can be used: not just as a crunchy garnish but as a key ingredient.

Red bean stew with walnuts, herbs and pomegranate. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Red bean stew with walnuts, herbs and pomegranate
40 minutes
Three to four servings (about three cups)

This weeknight-friendly bean stew takes its flavour cues from the traditional Georgian dish, lobio nigvzit. In this spin, canned kidney beans and toasted, chopped walnuts are simmered in an aromatic, seasoned mixture of pomegranate juice and broth until thickened and saucy, then brightened with fresh herbs and a pop of juicy pomegranate seeds.

It’s a colourful, filling dish layered with flavour and brimming with nutrients, and it feels both familiar and excitingly new at the same time.

Storage Notes: Leftover stew can be refrigerated for up to four days.

INGREDIENTS
– Half a cup of raw walnut halves
– One tablespoon olive oil
– One small yellow onion (about five ounces), diced
– Three cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
– Half a teaspoon of ground coriander
– Quarter teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
– Half a cup of pomegranate juice
– Two (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
– One cup low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
– Three-quarter teaspoon fine salt
– A quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
– Half a cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped, plus more whole leaves for serving
– Half a cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more whole leaves for serving
– Two teaspoons vinegar
– Quarter cup fresh pomegranate seeds

DIRECTIONS
In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about three minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool, then coarsely chop.

In a large (four-quart) saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about three minutes. Add the garlic, coriander and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, one minute more.

Add the pomegranate juice, increase the heat to high and cook until the juice is reduced to about three tablespoons, about three minutes. Add the beans, walnuts, broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half and the mixture has thickened a bit, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley, cilantro and vinegar.

Serve garnished with the additional parsley and cilantro leaves and the pomegranate seeds.

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