This stew is a Lebanese home cuisine staple. Red beans are an important part of mouneh (food preserves), and easy to stock and cook (pink or pinto varieties are the best for this dish). The stewed beans should be soft and melting, so start with an overnight soaking (which excludes this dish from a last-minute decision!) and put them to boil (in fresh water) over a low fire. The Tuscans are called “bean eaters” with good reason, and their trick for perfect bean cooking is to cook them overnight over a very low fire—ideally and traditionally, the dying embers of a wood fire.
Red Bean Stew is a Friday favorite; it can be prepared in advance and served at room temperature. It is best eaten with scallions, radishes, and a green salad.
- 1 1/4 cups (313 g) dried red kidney beans
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 1 head of garlic, cloves separated
- 1 tablespoon (16 g) tomato paste
- 4 medium yellow onions
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
- Kamal Mouzawak
Soak the red beans overnight in water to cover. The next day, drain, place in a large pot, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, and let them cook over low heat until half cooked (taste the beans; if you can bite through them but they are still very firm, they are half cooked).
Meanwhile, peel the tomatoes if desired (blanch them in boiling water for a minute to loosen the skins). Peel the garlic cloves; add the tomatoes and garlic to the half-cooked beans, along with the tomato paste. Finely chop the onions. Heat half of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and sauté the onions until melting and lightly colored, 10 to 15 minutes. Add to the beans.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, and let the stew cook until the sauce is brown and thick and the beans are well cooked. How long this takes will depend on the variety and age of bean you use, so keep tasting until they are as soft as you like and the sauce is thick. When done, add the remaining olive oil and serve warm.
Note: For the fassolia bi lahmeh (the meaty version), an oxtail is the piece of choice; its high gelatin content adds a wonderful consistency to the sauce. Start by cutting 1 3/4 pounds (800 g) oxtail into pieces and sautéing the oxtail in 2 tablespoons (28 ml) of vegetable oil until browned. Then add the soaked red beans and continue as directed above. This version is served hot, with white rice.