Sunday, April 29, 2018

Sunday Dinner with the Reds: Middle Eastern Beef and Green Bean Stew

Congratulations to Red Rhys Bowen, winner of the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel:
 In Farleigh Field

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It's Sunday, the best time for an easy dinner. Maybe you're on the way home from Malice Domestic, maybe you've been working in the garden, perhaps you're just having a much-needed lazy day. Whichever; you want a tasty meal you don't have to spend much time on. Since I am the Queen of Lazy Cooking, I'm here to help you out, dear readers.

Today's recipe is a loose adaptation of fasolia, a traditional Middle Eastern beef stew with green beans. You can make it the slow way, with cubed stew beef in a dutch over, or you can make it the fast way with ground chuck; in either version, the prep time is minimal. Unlike a lot of stews, this is pantry-staple heavy - no need to chop and chop and chop a variety of veggies.

1 lb beef stew meat, cubed or a little over 1 lb ground chuck

If using stew beef, seasoned flour: flour, salt and pepper in a bag in which you can toss the beef. (I use saved bread bags for this, btw.)

Olive oil for sauteeing stew beef or of you're using low-fat-content ground chuck

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, diced or heaping teaspoon of pre-chopped garlic

1 16 oz can of diced tomatoes with liquid

1/2 can tomato paste

1 t each ground allspice and paprika

1/2 t each cinnamon and ground coriander (you can substitute a generous serving of fresh cilantro if you have it)

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup tapenade. This is one of my pantry staples, since I don't make appetizers or cocktail nibbles; you can substitute diced olives, but it's better if they're the kind that's been put up in oil.

2 1/2 c water

1 lb green beans - frozen, canned or fresh. They can be French cut, sliced or whole.

If using stew beef, toss the cubes in the seasoned flour and saute in the olive oil until browned. Remove meat with a slotted spoon. Saute onion and garlic until limp, then add the spices and stir to develop flavor. 

If using ground chuck, saute the meat, adding oil if necessary. Before the beef is completely brown, add the onion and garlic. Saute until limp. Drain beef is necessary, then add spices.

For both versions: add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and tapenade or chopped olives, stirring well. Add bay leaf and water.

For stew beef: bring to a boil, then simmer low for 1 1/2 hours.

For ground chuck: bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.

At the end of cooking time, add in the green beans. Simmer until heated through (or cooked, if you're ambitiously using fresh instead of frozen.)

Traditionally served on rice, we also had the leftover on spaghetti, so use whatever suits you. The stew holds up well to a bold red wine, and if you happen to have some pita bread and tzatiki or hummus from the deli, it'll look (and taste) like you made a fancy meal. No need to tell anyone it took you 15 minutes to put together.

Sihatayn! !صحتين


  1. Congratulations, Rhys, on your award for “In Farleigh Field” . . .

    Julia, this sounds delicious --- and so easy to make; thanks for the recipe . . . .

  2. Congratulations Rhys--so well deserved! and the stew looks like just the meal to celebrate with!

  3. Yay Rhys!! And you were so elegant and eloquent.... hurray!

  4. Congratulations, Rhys!

    Julia, I can almost smell your fasolia from here! Bet it's delish!

  5. Congratulations to Rhys! I enjoyed In Farleigh Field. Julia, this recipe looks like a winner.

  6. CONGRATULATIONS, RHYS!!! Raising a cuppa to you!

    And Julia, this sounds yummy. Easy is up my alley.

  7. Congratulations, Rhys!

    Julia, this stew sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Congratulations Rhys! What a thrill to win for for the rest of us to bask in your glory. I had no doubt you would win. And Hallie, congratulations for being shortlisted. I voted for you xox.

    Julia, this sounds so good and easy. I'm adding it to my possibilities for beef use although today may be chicken soup day. Julie is coming down with a cold and I feel like a relapse. and it is flipping snowing, although you may already know that if you've looked out the window.

    Here's my new go to when we have a yen for Indian Food.
    Curry Stand Chicken Tikka Masala
    2 tbsp ghee (melted clarified butter)
    1 onion, finely chopped
    4 cloves garlic, minced
    1 tbsp ground cumin
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp ground ginger (I used about a tblsp grated fresh ginger or to taste)
    1 tsp black pepper
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp turmeric
    1 14 oz can tomato sauce
    1 cup heavy cream
    2 tsp paprika
    1 tsp cayenne I use less
    1 tbsp sugar
    1 tbsp oil
    4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into bite size pieces. I use thighs instead
    1/2 tsp curry powder
    1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp sugar or to taste

    Heat ghee in large skillet over medium hear and coo and stir onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in cumin, 1 tsp salt, ginger, cayenne cinnamon and turmeric, fry until fragrant, about 2 minutes

    Stir tomato sauce in the onion and spices, bring to boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, then mix in cream, paprika, and 1 tbsp sugar. Simmer and stir until sauce is thick, about 10 minutes.

    Heat veg oil in separate skillet and stir chicken in, sprinkle with curry powder, and sear chicken until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Dump all including pan juices into sauce and simmer 30 minutes, until chicken is done, taste for seasoning and add 1 twp sugar if you want to.

    Serve with a pile of hot rice and assorted chutneys. I like one made with 1 sliced banana, 1 chopped tomato, 1 diced sweet onion, handful of coconut and juice of one or two limes.

    Trust me. I am a nurse.

    1. Ann, I'll have to try this. I have chicken thighs in the freezer and most of the ingredients. Yum.

    2. You know it's a good Indian recipe if the majority of ingredients are spices! And Ann - snowing? Where in Canada are you? Nunavut?

    3. Very funny Julia. Rochester NY has had the longest winter in recent memory. I’m usually planting by this time.

      Deb, this is a great curry and trust me. The heavy cream is necessary so don’t go substituting. You might want a mango lassi to go with

    4. Sounds good. Do you clarify the butter yourself?

    5. I don’t fuss with clarifying it!

  9. Rhys, congratulations! I loved the book and missed the characters when I finished reading it.

    Julia, may I come for dinner the next time you make this delicious-sounding meal?


  10. Congratulations Rhys ! So well deserved.
    Julia, your recipe seems a very good one to face this grey rainy day.

  11. Congratulations to Rhys! Wish I could have been at Malice this year.

    Julia, is the recipe organic? Non GMO?


    1. I do organic in the summer months, Diana, when I get my wonderful weekly box o' veg from Bumbleroot Farm. The rest of the year, it's cheap-o canned and frozen all the way.

  12. Congratulations, Rhys!! So happy for you!!!!!

    Julia, thanks for the recipe. I will try when we have a cool spell. Into spring things here--organic burgers on the grill tonight!

  13. Congratulations, Rhys! Well deserved!

    The recipe sounds delicious, Julia, and just the sort of thing I'll enjoy using my cast iron stuff for. (I have a little Le Creuset habit, but I swear I can quit buying it any time!)

  14. Very exciting, Rhys! Congratulations! And thanks for the recipe, Julia. It looks yummy and easy--my favorite kind of recipe!

  15. Perfect Sunday cold weather recipe Julia......easy prep and comfort food....the best combination.
    Congratulations Rhys........saw the glorious picture of you and Louise on Facebook....your blue jacket was perfect!

  16. Congratulations, Rhys! So happy for you and your wonderful book. Julia, I love the title of Queen of Lazy Cooking. The recipe sounds delicious, but I have to be careful about eating beef sometimes, crazy digestive problems at times.

  17. I'll echo everyone else and add my congratulations, Rhys. I too saw the photo of you with Louise Penny and I think you looked stunning--definitely your color!

    Thanks for the recipe, Julia--I appreciate lazy cooking recipes--my go-to at the moment involves a frozen package mix of kale, beans, barley, and broccoli (not much of any of these, but it serves to start). Add 1/2 cup water or broth to frozen mix in large deep skillet, then toss in a cup (or two, depending on number of mouths to feed) of precooked barley, farro, or brown/wild rice, coarsely chop one bunch of kale and add to top. Cover and cook on medium heat; after kale starts to wilt, stir. 10 mins, max, and supper is done. When I have time, I like to start with a pound of beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized pieces, browned. Add some chopped onion, when onion turns translucent, cover with broth and cook on low 1-1/2-2 hrs until beef is fork-tender, then proceed as above).

    1. Nice one, Flora. I'll have to bookmark this for the summer, when I have kale coming out of my ears.

  18. Congratulations, Rhys!!! That is just wonderful and so well deserved! Thanks for the recipe, Julia. I am living on Reese's PB cups - deadline! - and real food looks so amazing to me right now. LOL!