Chef Boris Portnoy
At this San Francisco pop-up, chef Boris Portnoy cooked Georgian/Russian specialties. This thick, hearty soup was one of the signatures—a dish served at every table in the Caucasus (the border region between Europe and Asia) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
1 lb. dry red kidney beans or cranberry beans
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Pinch saffron threads or saffron powder
1 bunch cilantro, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 tbsp. ground fenugreek or ground mustard seed
Salt and pepper, taste
1. Rinse beans well and place in large pot with enough water to cover by about 3 inches. Soak beans overnight, or for at least 6 to 8 hours.
2. Over medium-high heat, bring beans and soaking water to a boil. Partially cover pot; boil gently until beans are tender, about 1 hour. Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Set both aside.
3. In large, deep pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onion; cook 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft. Add drained beans and about 1 1/2 cups reserved cooking liquid. Using the flat part of a spatula or a potato masher, mash some of the beans to a rough paste. Stir well and repeat the mashing once or twice more. You should have a thick, rustic, stew-like mixture. If necessary, add a little more of the cooking liquid to achieve the right consistency. (Any remaining bean-cooking liquid may be used in another soup or vegetable stock.)
4. Stir in walnuts, saffron, cilantro, mint and fenugreek; season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. Stir in vinegar and pomegranate molasses until well-combined. The mixture should have a pleasant sweet and sour balance. Serve the soup hot, accompanied by flatbread or a rustic country bread to mop up the juices.
Photograph courtesy of California Walnuts