Musings about Food & the Politics of Food.

TartQueen's Kitchen

Bean & Lamb Stew (Fasoulia فاصوليا) 2

Posted on December 13, 2013 by Sahar

As comfort foods go, Fasoulia was another one my sisters & I were rewarded with as we grew up.  It is a delightful stew consisting of (at least in the Palestinian tradition) of lamb, tomatoes, and green beans.

In fact, the word “fasoulia” in Arabic literally means “bean”.

Fasoulia is a dish that is found in several versions throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North & Sub-Saharan Africa, and southern Europe. There are versions that use white beans (Syria & Lebanon), red beans (Lebanon), with carrots (Ethiopia), and with olives and greens  (Greece).

The version I’m making is the one we grew up with (and the one I learned from my mom – who makes the best Fasoulia I’ve ever had, by the way).  It’s in the Palestinian style, with lots of tomatoes.


A few notes:

1.  You can make this dish vegetarian/vegan by simply omitting the meat and using vegetable broth.

2.  This dish is always served over rice.  I like to serve over saffron rice (because that was the way my sisters & I grew up eating it).  However, if you want to use plain white rice, or even brown rice (especially if you’re making the vegetarian version), go for it.

3.  If you don’t like or can’t find lamb, you can use beef.  Use chuck.  It’s meant for stewing and braising.

4.  Use regular, fresh green beans for this dish.  Don’t use frozen or haricot vert (French green beans).  They won’t hold up to the cooking time.

5.  This is generally served with browned pine nuts sprinkled over the top as garnish.  However, if you don’t want to go to the expense of or can’t find pine nuts, browned slivered almonds are an excellent substitute.


The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat.  Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The lamb. Be sure to trim it of most of the fat. Keep some, but get rid of any really large pieces.

The beans. Use regular green bean; not haricot vert or frozen. They won't stand up to the cooking.

The beans. Use regular green beans; not haricot vert or frozen. They won’t stand up to the cooking.

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice

Clockwise from top: salt; black pepper; allspice


1 med. onion, finely chopped

2 lbs. lamb, trimmed and cut into 1″ cubes

2 lbs. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1″ to 1 1/2″ pieces

3 tbsp. olive oil or clarified butter

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes (try to buy without basil; if you do get basil, pick out the leaves)

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. allspice

2 c. beef or chicken broth


1.  In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil or butter over medium-high heat.  Add the meat and cook, in batches if needed,  until it is browned.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

Browning the meat. If you get the bone, use it. It adds a lot of flavor.

2.  Add the onions to the saucepan and cook until they are softened, about 5 – 7 minutes.

Adding the onions.

Adding the onions.

3.  Add the beans and cook another 3 – 5 minutes.  Stir frequently.

And now for the beans.

And now for the beans.

4.  Add the tomatoes, spices, and broth.  Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low.  Cook until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.  Taste for seasoning.

With the tomaotes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

With the tomatoes, spices, and broth. And away we go.

5.  Serve with rice with a few browned pine nuts or slivered almonds on top.

Perfect meal for a cold night.

Perfect meal for a cold night.



Cannellini Bean Soup 1

Posted on February 26, 2013 by Sahar

In the final throws of winter in Central Texas, my mind continues to turn to heartier fare.  Sometimes, beans sound delicious.

Admittedly, beans are not a food I eat often.  I do like them, but it’s not a food that immediately springs to mind when I’m deciding what to make for dinner.  They should, though.  Beans are almost the perfect food.  They have high amounts of fiber and soluble fiber. (One cup of cooked beans providing between nine and 13 grams of fiber.)  Soluble fiber can help lower blood cholesterol. Beans are also high in protein, complex carbohydrates, folate, and iron.

Beans are one of the longest-cultivated plants. Broad beans (fava beans) were gathered in Afghanistan and the Himalayan foothills. They’ve been grown in Thailand since the early seventh millennium BCE.  They were buried with the dead in ancient Egypt. In the second millennium BC did cultivated, large-seeded broad beans appear in the Aegean, Iberia and transalpine Europe. In the Iliad (late-8th century) is a passing mention of beans and chickpeas cast on the threshing floor.

Beans were an important source of protein throughout Old and New World history, and still are today.

The oldest-known domesticated beans in the Americas were found in Guitarrero Cave, an archaeological site in Peru, and dated to around the second millennium BCE.

Most of the kinds commonly eaten fresh or dried, those of the genus Phaseolus, come originally from the Americas, being first seen by a European when Christopher Columbus, during his exploration, of what may have been the Bahamas, found them growing in fields. Five kinds of Phaseolus beans were domesticated by pre-Columbian peoples: common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) grown from Chile to the northern part of what is now the United States, and lima and sieva beans (Phaseolus lunatus), as well as the less widely distributed teparies (Phaseolus acutifolius), scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) and polyanthus beans (Phaseolus polyanthus). One especially famous use of beans by pre-Columbian people as far north as the Atlantic seaboard is the “Three Sisters” method of companion plant cultivation:

In the New World, many tribes would grow beans together with maize (corn), and squash. The corn would not be planted in rows as is done by European agriculture, but in a checkerboard/hex fashion across a field, in separate patches of one to six stalks each.
Beans would be planted around the base of the developing stalks, and would vine their way up as the stalks grew. All American beans at that time were vine plants, “bush beans” having been bred only more recently. The cornstalks would work as a trellis for the beans, and the beans would provide much-needed nitrogen for the corn.
Squash would be planted in the spaces between the patches of corn in the field. They would be provided slight shelter from the sun by the corn, would shade the soil and reduce evaporation, and would deter many animals from attacking the corn and beans because their coarse, hairy vines and broad, stiff leaves are difficult or uncomfortable for animals such as deer and raccoons to walk through, crows to land on, etc.

Dry beans come from both Old World varieties of broad beans (fava beans) and New World varieties (kidney, black, cranberry, pinto, navy/haricot).

Beans are a heliotropic plant, meaning that the leaves tilt throughout the day to face the sun. At nighttime, they go into a folded “sleep” position.

(Information from


The bean varieties I eat most often are pinto and black.  Hell, I’m in Texas.  It’s almost a requirement.  I’ve also enjoyed garbanzo, fava, navy, red kidney, and, my personal favorite, cannellini.

I’m not sure what it is about cannellini beans that I enjoy so much.  Perhaps it’s the slight sweetness to them.  They’re also very versatile. Like pretty much all beans.

Now, to the recipe.


The recipe is presented as vegetarian.  I generally keep it that way.  However, if you would like to make the recipe vegan, cook the beans from dried and omit the Parmesan rinds.  If you would like to add some meat to the recipe, a little leftover chicken or diced pork would work well.

I do used canned beans in this recipe.  Beans are a foodstuff that cans well.  It’s also quick, convenient, and cheap.

This is most definitely a dish one can make after a day at work.  It also freezes well.

As for the Parmesan rinds: if you have a good cheese section in your grocery store or a specialty cheese shop that cuts Parmesan down from the wheel, ask them to save you some of the rinds.  Sometimes you’ll be charged a nominal amount, sometimes you’ll get them for free.  Keep them in the freezer.  They add a lot of flavor ro many soups and stews without imparting too much extra fat or cheese.

The Ingredients

The Ingredients

The classic mirepoix. Equal parts carrot, onion, and celery.

The classic mirepoix. Equal parts carrot, onion, and celery.


2 cans cannellini beans, drained

1 med. carrot, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 c. yellow onion, minced

4 cl. garlic, minced

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 c. vegetable broth

1 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, or to taste

Approx. 3 – 4 oz. Parmesan rinds (If they are large enough, you can leave them loose in the soup while cooking. Otherwise, wrap them in a cheesecloth for easy removal after cooking.)

Extra olive oil for serving


1.  In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the vegetables (the mirepoix) and the garlic and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Sauteing the vegetables and garlic.

Sauteing the vegetables and garlic.

2.  Add the beans, sage, salt & pepper.  Saute another 2 – 3 minutes.

Adding the beans, sage, salt  & pepper.

Adding the beans, sage, salt & pepper.

3.  Add the broth and rinds.  Bring the broth to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low.  Cook for 30 – 45 minutes, or until the soup begins to thicken. Stir occasionally to be sure the rinds don’t stick to the bottom.

Adding the broth and the rinds.

Adding the broth and the rinds. 

4.  When the soup is done, taste for seasoning and adjust to your liking.  Remove as many of the rinds as you can before or as you serve. (The rinds are basically inedible.)  Drizzle some olive oil over the top of the soup if you like.

The finished soup.

The finished soup.

I like to have a good hearty country-style bread to serve with the soup.









Koshari: The National Dish of Egypt 1

Posted on June 30, 2012 by Sahar

When you mention the word “Koshari” ( كشرى) to an Egyptian, you will likely see someone with a blissful look in their eyes and a smile on their face.  It is regarded by nearly every Egyptian, as well as food historians and enthusiasts, as the National Dish of Egypt.  It’s a wonderful starch-fest of pasta, rice, lentils, and, sometimes, chick peas.  The addition of caramelized onions and a spicy, tangy tomato sauce complete the ensemble.

However, Koshari isn’t Egyptian in origin.  It is said to have come form the Indian dish “Kitchiri” (meaning a dish with rice & lentils) brought to Egypt by British Occupation troops in the late 19th – early 20th Century.  The British troops found the dish filling, delicious, and, most importantly, safe to eat.  The local inhabitants took a liking to this new dish and it became immensly popular.

Additonally, rice isn’t native to Egypt.  So, the Indian origin of the Koshari makes sense.  The Indians got rice from the Persians who most likely learned about it from the Chinese.  Rice wasn’t introduced into Egypt until approximately 1000 BCE. (It seems like a long time ago. But, in this part of the world, it’s a blip in time.) Also, the tomato sauce served with the dish is another Western addition.  Tomatoes & chiles are native to the Americas.  So, Koshari is a great example of what happens when cultures clash – in a good way.

Because it is a vegetarian/vegan dish, it is popular with Coptic Christians during Lent and other religious fast days.

This is a colorful description of how Koshari is served on the street and in the restaurants of Egypt:

“As the Koshary man scoops, he knocks his metal spoon against the sides of the bowls, making the Koshary symphony that you won’t hear elsewhere. When the Koshary man prepares an order of more than four the restaurant fills with sound as if it was a rehearsal for a concert. “The restaurants of Koshary are very noisy. One sits to eat while the Koshary man practices his drums in your ears.”

Abou Tarek, by the way, is the place to go.

(Some information from;; and,




Now, on to the recipe.


I generally make this recipe with brown rice and whole wheat pasta.  The more traditional recipes are with white rice and regular flour pasta.  Use whatever you like.  Also, chick peas are completely optional.  I like to use them.


The ingredients



1 c. brown lentils, picked over and rinsed

1/2 c. pasta, like elbow, gemelli, penne, etc. (I like to use whole wheat)

1 c. rice (I like brown rice)

1 can garbanzos (chick peas), drained

3 lbs. onion, peeled and sliced thin (about 1/4″ thick)

1/2 c. olive oil

1 tsp. ground cumin

Sat & Pepper to taste


Stewed Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 c. onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Fire Roasted)

2 tsp. white vinegar

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Salt & pepper to taste


1.  Cook the rice.  Bring 2 cups lightly salted water to a boil and add the rice.  Turn the heat down to low, cover the saucepan, and cook until the rice is done, about 40-50 minutes.  Remove the rice from the heat and set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, cook the lentils.  Bring 4 cups water to a boil and add the lentils.  Cook until the lentils are soft, about 25 – 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

3.  Cook the pasta.  Bring 4 c. salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and stir until the water comes to boil again.  Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

4.  Cook the onions.  This is actually is the longest part of the whole process, but for me anyway, is the best part.  The trick is to be patient when cooking the onions.  I cook them over medium-low to medium heat.  You can cook the onions as little or as much as you like, but the traditional way is to caramelize them.

Heat the olive oil over high heat.  Add the onions.  (I also like to add a teaspoon of salt.  It helps to release moisture from the onions and breaks them down a little faster.)  Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover with a piece of foil. (I find steaming the onions also helps with breaking them down.)  For the first 30 minutes, stir the onions occasionally, making sure you keep them covered.

Onions. The beginning. It's amazing how much they'll have cooked down at the end.

Onions. The beginning. It’s amazing how much they’ll have cooked down at the end.


Keeping the onions covered. I like to cover them for the first 30 minutes of cooking. I find the steaming helps the onions to release their liquid and keeps them from overcooking too quickly. However, it’s up to you.


After 15 minutes. The onions are beginning to wilt.


After 30 minutes. They’re beginning to wilt and quite a bit of liquid has been released.


After 45 minutes. The onions are beginning to brown.


After 1 hour. The liquid is beginning to evaporate and the onions are soft and continuing to brown.


5.  Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are soft.


Sauteing the onions and garlic.


6.  Add the tomatoes and lower the heat to low.  Cover and simmer the sauce for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After adding the tomatoes.


7.  After 20 minutes, add in the cumin, cayenne, vinegar, and salt & pepper to taste.  Set aside until the Khoshari is done.


The finished sauce. It can be served warm or at room temperature.


8.  While the sauce is cooking, the onions will continue to caramelize.  At this point, you will need to begin keeping a closer eye on the onions and stirring them more frequently.

The onions after 1 hour 15 minutes. The browning will be accellerting quickly at this point. Keep a very close eye on the onions at this point.


Onions at 1 hour 30 minues. You can stop at this point if you like. However, I go a little further.



Onions at 1 hour 45 minutes. Perfect.

9.  Once the onions are done, remove them from the heat, take them out of the oil, drain, and spread out on paper towels.  Keep the oil.


Draining the onions. Amazing how much they shrink during cooking.


10.  In the reserved oil, heat the rice, pasta, lentils, and garbanzos over medium-high heat.  Add the cumin, salt and pepper to taste.

Reheating the rice, pasta, lentils, and garbanzos.


11.  Add in the onions and mix thoroughly.  Taste for seaoning and heat through.



12.  Serve the Khoshari with the sauce on the side.  Or, on top if you like.

Dinner. A dinner that will fill you up.  And, despite the high oil content, it’s olive oil. Monounsaturated fat.


Enjoy! Sahtein!























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