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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

One of My Favorite Georgian Dishes: Kidney Beans

I have never been to Georgia (the country, not the state), but judging by their food, it is surely a magical place. When I briefly lived in Moscow (Russia, not Idaho), the Georgian food was the food I loved the most. The flavors were always fresh, piquant, and haunting. One of my favorite Georgian dishes is a simple red kidney bean salad of sorts with a garlicky walnut sauce. Called lobio (ლობიო), meaning "beans" in Georgian, this dish smartly combines ground walnuts, garlic, herbs, and vinegar - a very typical Georgian combination. After a few hours of rest and melding in the refrigerator, the beans emerge full of spicy, nutty, irresistible goodness.

The below recipe is adapted from Anya von Bremzen and John Welchman's Please to the Table: The Russian Cookbook (aka, my favorite book in the entire world.) I first made the lobio to go with a Russian/Eastern European-themed New Year's feast, served with an abundance of breads, salads, zakuski, and vodkas. These beans are wonderful just on their own, though, eaten as a simple lunch or spooned onto pieces of bread or pita.

And, since the beans really play the starring role in this show, be sure to get the best you can find. The first time I made lobio, I used whatever grocery-store brand; it was good, but now that I've tried the kidney beans from Bazaar Spices, there is a definite improvement.

Red Kidney Beans with Walnut Sauce (Lobio)

1 cup dried kidney beans
1/2 medium red onion, plus a few rings to garnish
1 cup walnuts, toasted in a dry skillet for a few minutes
3 cloves garlic, or to taste
1/2 cup cilantro, plus more to garnish
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon Urfa pepper, or to taste (optional, I just love it)
Salt, to taste

1. Soak the beans for 6 hours or overnight in water to cover.

2. Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until tender. Add more water to keep the beans covered during cooking if necessary.

3. Drain the beans and put into a large bowl. Allow to cool slightly, then mash lightly with a potato masher or wooden spoon so that about half the beans are crushed.

4. Put the onion, walnuts, garlic, and cilantro into a food processor with a steel blade (a mini food processor also works). Pulse a few times until everything is coarsely chopped. If you don't have a food processor, just chop everything up with a knife. Add the mixture to the beans, then add the coriander, vinegar, water, and oil. Mix well and season to taste with cayenne, Urfa pepper (if using), and salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.


5. Serve cold or at room temperature as a salad or with slices of bread or pita. Garnish with extra cilantro and red onion rings if you like.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


This post is part of  our series on Georgia cuisine for others in the series check out:
Georgian eggplant dip
Georgian spiced grilled lamb and chicken
Q&A With Jenny Holm
Introduction to Georgian Spices and Cuisine

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