Salade de haricots rouges aux noix

Red bean salad with walnuts

This piquant red bean salad has made its way to France from Georgia — the Georgia of the Caucasus mountains. The beans are mixed with walnuts, garlic, shallots, red wine vinegar, olive oil, cilantro and spices, which combine to produce an unmatchable flavor.

Preparation is easy and quick, once you have cooked the beans. Do not be tempted to use canned beans, as you will not get the same texture. Likewise, balsamic vinegar must not be substituted for red wine vinegar. I tried this once and it does not produce the same bite.

The beans should be soaked overnight or, if you’re in a hurry, you can get them ready to cook quickly by pouring boiling water over them and allowing them to sit for an hour. They are then cooked before being combined with the other ingredients.

This salad may be served as a starter, perhaps with a couple of other dishes — for example, spicy eggplant caviar, a mesclun salad or bresaola. Or it can be part of a Georgian-inspired spread, with other veggies and, for non-vegetarians, chicken with walnut sauce. A hearty red wine and some crusty bread will complete the picture.

1 cup (175 g) dried red kidney beans
1/2 tsp. sea salt or table salt
1 cup walnut pieces
2 cloves garlic
2 shallots
1 bunch fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1 dried cayenne pepper
salt to taste

Rinse the beans, place in a pot, cover with water and soak overnight. The water level should be about 2 inches (5 cm) higher than the beans.

The next day, boil the beans until they are tender, about one hour. Turn off the heat and add 1/2 tsp. sea salt or table salt. Allow to cool.

Drain the beans through a sieve into a clean recipient, keeping the bean water for use later.

Crush the beans lightly with a hand-held or counter-top blender. The idea is to keep some beans whole, not to reduce them to a purée. Transfer the beans to a clean bowl.

Grind the walnut pieces and add. Again, use a light touch — you want the walnuts to be ground lightly, not reduced to a powder.

Peel the garlic cloves and mince or crush through a press. Add to the beans.

Chop the cilantro finely, reserving a few sprigs for garnish. Add.

Add the vinegar, olive oil and 2 tbsp. of the reserved bean water. Add the ground coriander seeds. Crush the cayenne pepper and add. Stir well to blend.

Taste the salad. Add salt as desired. Stir and taste again.

Set the bowl aside at room temperature for at least a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature, decorated with sprigs of cilantro. Serves 4-5.

This recipe is inspired by Anya von Bremzen’s version of the salad in her fabulous cookbook ‘Please to the Table’, with recipes from the 15 former Soviet republics.

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