Recipe: Azeri String Beans in Tomato Sauce

To help Sasha Martin of the Global Table along on her quest to cook her way around the world, I am offering up a great Azeri recipe from The Silk Road Gourmet Volume One for Azeri String Beans in Tomato Sauce. In this recipe, the sauce is the thing. It is a wonderful tomato sauce, sweetened with sweet basil but given a slight sour tang by the addition of yogurt, sour cream and vinegar. Azeri’s use the sauce on vegetables – particularly green ones – and also on fowl and lamb. For the heck of it, I threw in an Azeri recipe for a Cucumber and Yogurt Dip flavored with mint, cilantro and sumac that just cries out for some flatbread. Enjoy Sasha! Let us know how the meal goes!

String Beans in Azeri Tomato Sauce
1 pound of fresh string beans, trimmed
4 tablespoons of butter
2 onions sliced thinly into crescents
1 batch of Azeri Tomato Sauce

1. Melt the butter in a sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the onions and lower the heat, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes. Add the green beans, stir and cover to cook for 20-30 minutes – stirring occasionally – or until the beans begin to soften to your desired consistency.

2. If you haven’t made the tomato sauce at an earlier time, it can be prepared as the beans cook. (see recipe below).

3. When the beans are almost done but not quite, pour in a desired amount of tomato sauce and allow them to simmer on low for a few minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

Azeri Tomato Sauce
8 ounces tomato sauce
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons white vinegar (or more to taste)

In a small to medium saucepan, stir in the tomato sauce and half of the basil and all of the pepper. Cook 3-5 minutes or until warmed. Stir in yogurt and sour cream, cover and cook another 5 minutes – stirring often. Stir in remaining basil and salt cook another 3-5 minutes and pour over vegetables or meat.

Extra! Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce Extra!
Cool and refreshing with a zing from the herbs and sumac – this condiment will cool down your mouth when eating spicy kebabs! An example of the yogurt-cucumber preparations eaten throughout the Caucasian and Caspian territories, this dish may even remind you of a more highly spiced Indian riata – its distant cousin.

11/2 cups whole-milk plain yogurt
2 teaspoons garlic, peeled and chopped
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and grated
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sumac

Combine in a bowl the yogurt, garlic, cucumbers mint and cilantro. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the flavors to blend. Before serving, stir in some sumac and garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy! (Words by Laura Kelley)