Wouldn’t you know? There’s a Stranger in my Kitchen…and it’s my own spouse! He’s Texan-born, prefers Southern cooking, and is disgusted by our sacred meat.
To navigate these choppy waters during my Armenian cooking apprenticeship, I’ve taken to renaming dishes – testing Shakespeare’s theory that ‘a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’
[Speaking of names, “The Stranger” in my blog’s title is a nod to L’êtranger by Camus, one of my very favorite books. Another viable translation is “The Outsider,” and the Armenian word for “Outsider” is Odar. All are words to describe one who stands outside of a culture, race, or social system.]
So to appease my husband (aka “the Odar in my Kitchen,”) I renamed bean piaz as “Armenian Chili Beans. I dare not serve them cold as Zee and my Armenian father recommend. Instead, I serve them warm, atop a bed of pilaf, with a nice side salad, and this seems to do the trick, for he doesn’t hesitate when I announce what’s for dinner and will happily eat an entire pot of over the course of a few days. Even better, he asks when I’ll be making them next!
Shakespeare was right; name matters not.
Now…if only it were enough to feed minds, I could wax on about existentialism and why I think it’s a poor label for Camus beloved book and thus reflects poorly on my blog’s namesake. But, alas, “the Odar in my Kitchen” is hungry for actual food, so off to the stove I must go!
Think of this as a white-bean chili. Made with olive oil in lieu of bad fats, this is healthy Armenian cooking at its best. Serve it cold as an appetizer, or warm like a "proper" bowl of chili. When Zee serves it warm, she always makes pilaf!
- 1 16 oz. bag Great Northern Beans
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger (Optional - to make beans less gassy!)
- 1 cup olive oil (Zee uses La Romanella from Smart and Final.)
- 4 large garlic cloves (Minced or finely chopped.)
- 1/2 jalapeño pepper (Deseeded, deveined, and finely chopped.)
- 3-4 large carrots (Cut into thinly sliced rounds.)
- 1 yellow onion (Diced.)
- 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 1 tsp mild red chili pepper (Use pure red pepper; not a blend.)
- 1/2 tsp salt (Or more, to taste.)
- Soak the white beans for 24-36 hours. Don't let them go any longer, lest they get funky!
- Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly, then boil them in a large pot with fresh water, salt, and the ginger. Simmer for 90 minutes.
- After the beans are cooked, drain and rinse them again.
- Return the pan to the slove, medium-low heat, and add the olive oil, carrots, onion, jalapeño, and garlic. Sauté until the carrots soften.
- Add the beans, tomato paste, 4 cups of water, stir well, and let it sit for a few minutes so the flavors can meld.
- Add the chili pepper and salt (to taste), stir again, and serve.