April 21, 2013

A Hearty Winter Meal for All Seasons.

I belong to a small legion of people who don't mind Winter.  In fact, I am going to go as far as saying I enjoy it.  I usually cook with intent focus when I'm spending time indoors during cold weather, but not this year.  I was traveling a lot for work and just could not find the time.  I think most people would agree with me that soups, stews and roasts just don't taste the same in warmer weather and for that, I'm going to have to wait another year. Although, the two recipes below are definitely exceptions to that rule.

We had a wimpy season in San Francisco this year, but I felt the full force of Winter on a recent business trip to Switzerland.  I visit the country twice a year to lecture at a hotel school and while I was there last month, my dear friend Karin invited me to cook a meal at her place in the beautiful lakeside town of Vevey, and I was happy to oblige!

My plan was simple: to put together a proper meal for a cold day.  That morning, the temperature had dipped below freezing and Karin and I were both in the mood for something hearty and comforting for dinner.  On the menu was Hummus (naturally!), followed by "Loubieh bi Zeit", French Green Beans cooked in Olive Oil and stewed, juicy tomatoes.  For the main course, I made a Lebanese potato and meat stew called "Yakhnet Batata" and for dessert, we had Ghirardelli chocolate squares I had brought over from SFO!

"Loubieh bi Zeit" (Green Beans Cooked in Olive Oil). Serves 4 - 6.

1 kg. (2 lbs.) frozen French green beans (haricots verts). Fresh greens beans work well, just cut the stems off from each end.
4 large ripe tomatoes (or 2 large cans diced tomatoes)
1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp paprika
1 small can (about 3 tbs) tomato paste
1 tbs salt & 1 tsp pepper

Once the onions have sauteed, in goes the bag of frozen beans
Next you add the tomatoes, the spices and the paste before adding water and cooking everything on low

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and fry the onions and garlic on medium-high heat until pale in color.
Add the beans and continue cooking until the beans turn a pale green color.
Add salt, pepper, paprika, tomatoes, tomato paste and mix well.
Cover the beans mixture with hot water and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the beans are softened, about 35 - 40 minutes.
Serve warm as is or with your choice of cooked rice.  Brown rice tastes great with this dish.

"Yakhnet Batata" (Potato Meat Stew).  Serves 4 - 6.
I prefer chicken as the protein for this dish.  Although traditionally, it is made with lamb, which is also excellent.  

1.5 kg (48 oz) potatoes, peeled, washed and cubed
600g (20 oz) boneless chicken breast or thigh meat (according to your preference), cubed
1 entire head of garlic, peeled & crushed
2 1/4 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbs salt
1.5 tsp allspice
1 tsp pepper
6 cups water

Heat vegetable oil in a large pan and fry the potato cubes over medium-high heat until golden.  Remove onto a paper-towel lined plate.
Fry coriander and garlic with 1 tbs butter in the same pan over low heat. Stir till fragrant for about 2 minutes.  Set aside.
Add butter to a large pot and fry chicken cubes until golden brown.
Add water to the chicken and bring to a boil over high heat.  Skim any foam that accumulates on the surface.  Reduce heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes (or 2 hours if using lamb).
Add fried potatoes, salt, allspice and pepper to chicken and stock. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat. Cover. Cook for 15 minutes.
Add coriander and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes.
Serve warm with a rustic loaf or your choice of bread on the side.

Note: the Kibbeh meatball making party I wrote about in my last post was a huge success.  The girls and I had a fantastic time cooking together and catching up.  We made lots of meatballs and ate some that night.  The rest we froze.  

The fried meatballs were a huge hit at dinner that night, and I am going to post the recipe sometime this Spring and I'm even planning on a second Kibbeh party with more photos, so stay tuned!

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