By Peggy Abood, special to Rose Water & Orange Blossoms
As the youngest of five in a Lebanese family, you get used to a certain amount of teasing especially when you have three older brothers and a precocious elder sister. There are earlier stories of my childhood affinity for a certain pair of white snow boots, or hiding a full dinner plate under a table in a different room, that will not be recounted here. Just because we’re now all in our 40s doesn’t mean the teasing has come to an end. Of late, the siblings have taken to teasing me about my love of this dish, yahneh, even as they eat every last bit of it when it’s on their plates. Sure, it’s a dish usually made with leftovers, more an afterthought than a direct destination, but it’s delicious nonetheless.
Yahneh is a peasant dish and one that my father loved dearly. His mother made it regularly and must have made it with peas, something my own mother never did, but that fact didn’t stop him from asking every time, when I told him I was making it in my Chicago kitchen, “Are you making it with peas or beans?” I’ve never once had this dish with peas but I would always respond, “Green beans this time, Dad.”
I’ve been the recipient of family ire for using leftover prime rib or tenderloin to make the yahneh, as evidently some believe such luscious cuts of meat have higher purposes. But it must have been one of these preparations that started to turn the corner of some of them because last winter we received a text message from our oldest brother, Tom, requesting the recipe for yahneh. The great irony of it all was that the one who teased me the most about loving this dish was my sweet sister Maureen. And when the request came in from Tom for the recipe, who was the first one running to her laptop to type out the recipe? You guessed it, Maureen.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 3 lb. chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces
Salt and pepper
½ lb. button or baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 28 oz. cans tomato sauce
28 oz. (1 can full) water
1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
In a 4 quart pan, over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Pat the meat dry and season with salt and pepper. Brown and caramelize the meat in batches, removing the meat as it is finished.
Over medium heat, add the mushrooms to the pot. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Saute until slightly caramelized and soft, scraping up the fond, or browned bits, from the bottom of the pan.
Add the onions, season lightly with salt and pepper, and sauté until soft and translucent.
Add the meat and the cinnamon. Mix well and add the tomato sauce and the water. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for one hour.
Add the beans and cook until the beans are soft, about 15 minutes.
Serve over Lebanese rice, which is long grain white rice with a handful of toasted thin pasta added to the rice (about 10 dry noodles broken into 2” pieces; angel hair, spaghetti, or linguini all work well). To toast the pasta, melt butter in a sauce pan over medium high heat and when it foams up, add the pasta, stirring constantly until the pasta turns golden. Add the rice, coat with the butter, then add the broth (2:1 broth to rice). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes.
Find a PDF of this recipe here.