About a year ago I had the pleasure of having cookbook author and cooking instructor Jennifer Abadi come to home to learn how to make the Afghani Pilau. If you want the recipe, then you’ll just have to buy my book! Jennifer is writing a Sephardi Passover cookbook and she, herself travels all over the tri-state area to people’s homes to learn how to cook their traditional Passover recipes. Here is a photo from that tutorial I gave to Jennifer, who also interviewed me extensively on the history of the dishes for Passover of Afghanistan and Bukhara. We went to the Persian supermarket called A to Z near me and got a full history of the ingredients used in Central Asian cuisine.
Jennifer, is the author of A Fistful of Lentils, a cookbook memoir about her Syrian Jewish family roots. Obviously, we have something in common. We cook to connect to our past and want the world to learn and taste of these ancient cuisines. Syrian cooking, which is considered Mediterranean and a bit off the beaten track from the Silk Road has certain characteristics that speak Syrian. That is…. beans, tomatoes and cinnamon. Arabs have had a long history with trading spices along the Spice Route. When ever I think of the fall season, for some reason I think of cinnamon. There is something very earthy and warm to cinnamon that just makes me feel grounded and home. Perhaps that is why I ventured out to make this bean stew that oozes cinnamon. The stew falls somewhere between a soup and a stew. It’s completely vegetarian, very satisfying, and–best of all–you may already have all of the ingredients in your pantry!
1 lb (2 1/2 cups) dried cannelini or navy beans
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes with juice
4 cups cold water or broth
1 tablespoon lightly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
cooked rice, for serving
- Cover the beans with cold water and remove any rocks, dirt, or other debris from the surface of the water. Let soak for 12 hours. Drain water and transfer to a 4-quart saucepan. Cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer vigorously until beans are just cooked but not soft, about 45 minutes. Drain water and reserve beans.
- Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-high heat. Cook the onions, stirring, until translucent, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 additional minute; do not burn. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Add diced tomatoes, water, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Return to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat until beans are very soft and liquid has thickened considerably, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
- Serve in bowls over basmati rice.