Friday, November 20, 2009

Fasolatha: Bean Soup

In Greek: φασσολάδα, say: fah-so-LAH-thah

According to food historians, fassolatha has been around since ancient Greek times. It is the national dish of Greece, representing the best of the Greek way of cooking: legumes, vegetables, herbs, and olive oil.

It can be made with tomato (red version) or lemon juice (white version), and whichever way you choose, culinary tradition dictates that fassolatha be served with crusty bread, feta cheese (except during Lent and periods of fasting when eating cheese is restricted), and black olives.

Cook Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

* 1 pound of dried beans (Great Northern work well)
* water
* 1 cup of olive oil
* 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
* 2/3 tablespoons of tomato paste
* 2 carrots, sliced
* 1 big onion, sliced
* 1 medium potato, peeled and cut in small cubes
* 2-3 stalks of celery with leaves, chopped
* 2-3 small hot red peppers (to taste)
* 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
* chopped fresh parsley for serving


Day 1: Soak the beans overnight in lukewarm water.

Day 2: Drain and rinse the beans, and place in a soup pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, cook for 5 minutes, and drain.

Place beans in a clean pot with enough water to cover by about 1 1/4 inch. Add oil, ground pepper, tomato paste, sliced carrots, cubed potato, celery, onion, and hot peppers (these can be omitted completely if preferred).

When full boil resumes, reduce heat, cover, and simmer on low heat for about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The beans should be soft and creamy, but not to the point of disintegrating, and since the quality of beans and personal preference varies, check for doneness after 1 1/2 hours. Beans may need to be cooked 2 hours or more.

10 minutes before cooking time is up, add the salt.

Fassolatha bean soup is served warm or at room temperature sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Yield: Serves 4-6

Alternate Preparation:
To make "white" fassolada (without tomato paste), leave out the tomato paste, cook as above, and just before serving, stir in the juice of 1 lemon. This is served with olive oil and lemon juice sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Preparation tip:
During the simmering time, you may need to add more water. Make sure to add boiling water, and not more than a half of a cup at a time. Fassolatha is not a puree type of thick soup, but should not be watery.

Serving suggestions:

Serve fassolatha with a side of feta cheese sprinkled with pepper and oregano and doused in olive oil, crusty bread, black olives, and salty dishes like anchovies, smoked herring, or others of your choice.

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