Sunday, October 9, 2011
Armenian White Bean Salad with Garlicky Carrots
My mother-in-law Sarah was a wonderful cook who enjoyed making traditional Armenian recipes for family events. Back in the old country, each region's cooks tended to favor their own variations on favorite dishes, and Sarah very carefully reproduced the comfort food from her childhood. She herself was born in the US, but her mother had come to this country as a refugee from the Genocide that took place in 1915. Her mother's name, Arev, means sunshine in Armenian, and despite the difficult circumstances of her youth, she was the sweetest little woman, always with a twinkle in her eye.
This particular dish, called Pilaki in Armenian, was one I had never tasted until I was married. In my family, my father was Armenian but my mother was Irish, so we only had traditional Armenian food at church picnics and relatives' houses. My father's mother, my grandmother Elmas, died when I was only five. According to family legend, her upbringing was interrupted by the Genocide before she had learned to cook well, so my father never wanted to revisit the foods of his youth!
It was when I met my husband that I began to appreciate the wide variety of delicious dishes that make up traditional Armenian cooking. I was never much of a bean person, but when I first tasted this white bean salad one Easter, I fell in love. This is a cooked dish that can be served warm or cold. The trick to cooking this well is to leave the vegetables firm (al dente). Complex layers of flavor begin with mellow garlic and peppery celery, and build through sweet carrots, tart tomato sauce and creamy beans, then finish with a healthy dose of sharp fresh parsley and dill. Make this a day ahead of time so the flavors have time to meld -- it really makes a difference to the finished product.
(P.S. This bowl belonged to my husband's grandmother!)
Armenian White Bean Salad with Garlicky Carrots (Pilaki)
2 cans white beans, drained (I use cannellini)
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 8oz can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh parsley
2 Tbsp fresh dill
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, saute garlic in a little olive oil. Add carrots and celery, and cook on medium heat for 3 - 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for ten more minutes. Stir in beans, parsley, dill, salt and pepper, and cook for 5 more minutes.
This dish can be served right away warm, or chilled overnight in the refrigerator. If you do decide to wait a day to eat it, serve it cold. When you reheat this salad, the tomato bits clump up and get funny.
Shared with Sundae Scoop at I Heart Naptime and Wellness Weekend at Diet Dessert and Dogs and Freaky Friday at Real Food Freaks and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now and Weekend Wrap Up at Tatertots and Jello and Strut Your Stuff Saturday at Six Sisters' Stuff and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Real Food 101 at Ruth's Real Food and The Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead and Fat Tuesday at Real Food Forager and Tasty Tuesday at Naptime Creations and Traditional Tuesday at Cooking Traditional Foods and Meatless Monday at Midnight Maniac and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Gluten Free Wednesday at the Gluten Free Homemaker and These Chicks Cooked at This Chick Cooks and Show Off Your Stuff at Fireflies and Jellybeans and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Wellness Weekend at Diet Dessert and Dogs and Freaky Friday at Real Food Freaks and the Gallery of Favorites at Premeditated Leftovers and Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Flu Fighting Foods at Easy Cheap Quick and Healthy.