Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Recipe: Uncle Karim's Syrian Green Beans

My Mum's - friends husband introduced me to this dish when I visited them in San Antonio over 9 years ago. Uncle Karim is Syrian and loves to cook. Since I already had an interest in food, I hung around the kitchen to watch. Until then cooking for me was equated with labor intensive Manglorean Dishes. It was an eye opening revelation, to see how such a simple dish, that was so easy to assemble, could taste so divine.

About a year ago, I had the chance to visit Lebanon and that's when I realised that vegetables are so fresh and tasty in that part of the world, that most of their dishes are very low on extra flavorings, so that the true flavor of each ingredient stands out. The salads in Lebanon are to die for. I could just eat raw salads for a week and this affirmation comes from someone who starts climbing the walls if I don't get to eat meat for over 24 hours.

Uncle Karim's green beans were very easily assembled. He lopped off the ends of the beans, sliced some tomato, garlic and onions and put them all in a pan. Drizzled a little olive oil on the top, added some coarse salt. Shut the pan with an air tight lid and just forgot about it until the dish was done. Yummy! Especially with pita bread.

Kim's Levantine Inspired Green Beans
When I cook this dish at home, at some point I started adding sesame seeds, because I love the nutty flavor that it adds to the dish.
The husband likes the beans to be chopped up a bit, so its easier to scoop up and eat with rotis, so I do that too when I'm cooking for us, but if I'm serving it at a dinner party, then I prefer to leave the beans whole. They look more elegant that way :)
These are my 2 main differences in Uncle Karim's recipe.

Ingredients:
200 gms green beans
2 tomatoes sliced thin
1 onion sliced thin
2-3 cloves of garlic (I use a lot more)
2 tsps sesame (til) seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp olive oil (regular oil can also be used)
salt to taste


Method:
Warm the olive oil, saute the garlic till it releases its raw aroma, add sesame seeds and saute lightly.
Add the onion, garlic and tomatoes with a little salt and shut the pan.
There is no need to add water as long as you use an air tight top and resist the temptation to lift the cover while it is cooking. If you do open it, it will dry out and will require an additional bit of water.
Cook till done.
If your tomatoes don't have any tartness in them, squeeze a hint of lemon juice before serving.
Serve hot with any kind of rotis or Middle Eastern breads.

The other items on this plate are Lois Lane's Sindhi Moong Dhal and Mattar Paneer

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