Mediterranean White Bean and Meat Stew
Mediterranean diet is like taking a road trip from Greece to Italy and then on to the Middle Eastern countries. Not only does it nourish our bodies, but it also offers a culinary journey. The combination of fresh herbs and traditional seasonings makes cooking an experience for all the senses. When I was a kid my mom always cooked Mediterranean style dinners, and she never considered the Western diet as an option. Cooking a variety of vegetable and legume stews for dinner were really common for her, especially during the cold months. Actually, some kids may complain about their mom’s cooking, but I loved my mom’s food. Now as a grandma myself, I still find myself day dreaming of all her yummy meals and the awesome pita bread she used to bake. Today she is a bit older than those days, so she don’t do much cooking anymore. Neither do I make it over the Atlantic ocean often enough to enjoy her cooking (even if she did). Recently, as I was having one of those mental childhood memory lane “journeys”, I remembered one specific meal;
White bean and meat stew dinner
My mom didn’t cook healthy food from scratch because she enjoyed it, she did it because she was adamant about eating healthy and fresh. The flavors and ingredients I grew up with, where mainly from the Mediterranean as well as the Middle Eastern countries. Trying to recreate the meal from my childhood that my mom used to cook, was really not that hard. I just had to remember the aromas and the flavors of her dinner. Beans, tomatoes, some meat, garlic, onion, cumin, cinnamon and coriander, and of course fresh parsley and cilantro. I watched my mom use more parsley in a month than most people would use in a lifetime (no joke). And if you have never used the combination of cumin, coriander and cinnamon in your meals, then you are up for a treat.
Cumin has a distinct earthy and nutty flavor and aroma. One of the benefits of cumin in a meal, is that it aids with digestion.This may be why it is commonly used in dishes that might cause some digestion issues, such as beans. Cumin helps to activate our digestive enzymes in our stomach, which kick starts the process. I think our forefathers (I actually believe mothers) understood digestion issues better than we sometimes give them credit for. In a study done, they found how cumin can help improve the symptoms on patients with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I love how the combination of ingredients in this recipe can act as a medicine for the body.
Coriander is excellent for stews. The biggest spice discovery I ever learned, was that, coriander comes from the same plant as cilantro. Strange right?? In order for coriander to grow, one has to allow the cilantro plant to go to seed. Then those matured seeds are harvested and used . The two don’t taste the same or look anything alike. Coriander has a bit of sweet and nutty flavors. It does not have a strong aroma or flavor like cumin, but it adds just as much spice to a dish. It is more common in Mediterranean dishes, whereas cilantro is more common in Mexican food. Just like cumin, coriander helps with digestion, but also liver function as well.
Cinnamon was first introduced to the region of the Mediterranean countries by traders from the Spice Islands. The Ottomans chefs added this spice to many of their dishes, such as rice, stews as well as their sweet treats, such as pastries and puddings. Cinnamon is a subject of its own with all the benefits and uses. Suffice to say, that we don’t use this bark often enough. Today you can frequently find cinnamon in all kinds of recipes, especially from the Middle Eastern regions.
Let’s get cooking!
*You can always substitute fresh herbs with dry. The difference is, slight taste difference and instead of adding the herb at the end, you want to add it in same time as all your dry seasonings. dry herbs need time to simmer to bring out its flavor and aroma.
Med. White Bean and Meat Stew
Yield: (About) 9-10 Cups. Prep time: 10 Min Cook Time: 30-40 Min
2 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Chopped Yellow Onion
2 Cans (14.5 Oz.) Rinsed White beans Or 3 1/2 – 4 Cups Cooked Beans
1 Lb Ground Beef
1 Can (14.5 Oz.) Crushed Tomatoes
6-7 Cloves Fresh Garlic
6 Oz. (4-5 Tablespoon) Tomato Paste
1 Tablespoon Cumin
1 Tablespoon Coriander
2 Cups Water
1 Teaspoon Sugar (Only to neutralize the acid in the tomatoes)
1 Cinnamon Stick
5 Tablespoon (handful) Chopped Fresh Parsley (or 2 tablespoon Dry)
1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro (or 1 Tablespoon Dry)
1-2 Teaspoon Salt (Personal Preference)
In a heavy pan cook your ground beef. If your meat keeps sticking, you can either add a little olive oil or few tablespoons of water. When your meat starts browning add all the chopped onion and the pressed garlic. Mix and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, sugar, salt and the cinnamon stick. Mix all your seasoning (if you are using dry herbs, now is the time to add those) and then add the canned tomatoes and the pure with the two cups of water. Next you add the beans and then you put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. After you have allowed the dish to simmer, remove the lid and add one to two tablespoons of olive oil. If you are using fresh parsley and cilantro, chop it fine and add the herbs couple of minutes prior to serving. Or you can add the parsley right at the end of cooking and then only garnish with the fresh cilantro.
This stew goes well with variety of side dishes. You can serve it with rice and salad or bread and salad. You can also bake a spaghetti squash and serve it with a green salad on the side. As a side note, this dish is very mild in flavor and not spicy at all. Perfect for cold nights. This particular recipe tastes even better the next day. So make sure you make enough for leftovers!
Love to hear your feedback on this one, and I hope it takes you on a journey of foreign and exotic places 😉