Using chopped nuts to thicken and add nutrition to sauces and stews is common across many cuisines around the world. There are West African stews featuring ground peanuts, nutty Italian pesto sauces and Indian dishes made creamy with ground cashews, to name a few.
In Georgia, (the country not the state), many traditional dishes are enriched with ground walnuts, including lobio nigvzit, a stew in which chopped walnuts are simmered with beans, aromatic spices, herbs, and tart fruit juice and/or sauce. This recipe is my spin on that dish — it departs quite a bit from the traditional but captures its exciting core flavors in a bright, weeknight-friendly way.
Using canned kidney beans makes the stew ultrafast and convenient. Once rinsed and drained, the beans are simmered with toasted, chopped walnuts, sauteed onion and garlic, ground coriander, pomegranate juice and broth until the mixture is saucy and thickened but the beans and nuts retain their texture. (If you want the sauce a bit thicker you can mash some of the beans in the pot with a spoon, and if you want it looser you can add some more broth or water.)
A brightening splash of red wine vinegar, and chopped fresh parsley and cilantro are stirred in at the end, and the stew is served topped vibrantly with more herbs and a pop of juicy, sweet-tart pomegranate seeds.
It's a colorful, filling meal layered with flavor and brimming with nutrients, a dish that feels familiar and excitingly new at the same time, and it highlights one way of the many ways nuts can be used: not just as a crunchy garnish but as a key ingredient.
Red Bean Stew With Walnuts, Herbs and Pomegranate
- ½ cup (1 ¾ ounces) raw walnut halves
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ cup pomegranate juice
- 2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
- ¾ teaspoon fine salt (less if using salted beans)
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped, plus more whole leaves for serving
- ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus more whole leaves for serving
- 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup fresh pomegranate arils
In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, let cool, then coarsely chop.
In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, 1 minute more.
Add the pomegranate juice, increase the heat to high and cook until the juice is reduced to about 3 tablespoons, about 3 minutes. Add the beans, walnuts, broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the liquid is reduced by about half and the mixture has thickened a bit, about 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley, cilantro and vinegar.
Serve garnished with the additional parsley and cilantro leaves and the pomegranate seeds.
Makes about 3 cups.
Nutrition information: Each cup (prepared with no-salt added beans and low-sodium broth) contains approximately 280 calories, 14 g protein, 17 g fat, 27 g carbohydrate (9 g sugar), no cholesterol, 637 mg sodium and 3 g fiber.
Carbohydrate choices: 2