I just learned that my dear Moslem friend Aisha Aziz died a few days ago, so this recipe is in honor and memory of her. It has been in my cookbook, and deciding which recipes to upload when is one of my current questions. I have been thinking a lot about Aisha, even before knowing she was so close to leaving this world. She has been in my daily prayer practice for some time.
Her home was always open to me and to others. Every year at the end of Ramadan, her and her husband Abdul would invite me to their Eid al-Fitr celebration feast. The food there was extraordinary and I wish I’d gotten more recipes. Aisha always asked me to bring one or two of her favorite dishes of mine to share. We both had a fierce love of the Divine, a constant engagement with caring for those in our homes and cooking up feasts for them.
The differences between us were more like the differences of taste and flavor between kinds of peppers or spices. Moslem or Jew, we were and always will be sisters. I learned this particular recipe from my beloved sister Aisha, now of blessed memory, who came over for Shabbat one evening and offered to cook the beans for me. She couldn’t just be a guest, she saw the beans and the ingredients and offered to show me a new recipe. I’m so glad she came over early to hang out with me in my kitchen. It’s pretty much my favorite place to be with people. Once you’ve cooked with someone, they are family!
Life is so short, so please when you have the chance to partake of something delicious, or someone delicious, enjoy! Enjoy their laugh, the texture of their skin, the wrinkles when they smile, the smell of vanilla or cumin they bring with them or the sound of their voice.
Aisha’s Heavenly Curried Beans
- at least three or four large handfuls of fresh green beans (You cannot ever get enough of this dish if prepared well and they are great cold the next day as well)
- olive oil
- curry powder (I use cumin, spicy red pepper or cayenne, coriander, turmeric and salt for my curry powder. Curry is a word that has many translations, it is a combination of spices or dishes and flavors not one specific spice.) If you don’t have your own fresh separate spices, you can use a “curry” powder, but make sure it is fresh and it won’t taste as good as if you mix the spices together in the hot oil in the pan.
- 1-2 medium to large tomatoes
Blanch green beans thoroughly. This means you have a large pot of boiling water and you throw the green beans in the water for about three to five minutes. Remove them either with a slotted spoon or strainer and put them in another dish or bowl. In a separate frying pan heat some olive oil (not a tiny drop but a goodly amount so that the spices mix well and you will have enough oil and spices to coat the green beans. Add the spices or your curry powder and blend together while warm. As stated above, I create my own curry mix with fresh ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, and a dash of cayenne. I combine these in the oil as it is warming and add the salt as well. I adjust with more of one or another of these five basic ingredients. I prefer to grind my cumin in a Suribachi, which is a rough and large grooved mortar and pestle and is an absolute essential in my kitchen. The flavor is so much fresher when you grind your own spices and really makes a difference, the same can be said for the coriander seeds (but they take more work, so even I use the already powdered kind sometimes.) Please see the Lesser but Still Important Commandments from The Ten Commandments (and a few more) of Nicole’s Kitchen for more instructions on herbs and spices.
Add the blanched green beans to the olive oil and curry powder. Sauté for 5–10 minutes. Add sliced tomato wedges and sauté for another 5–10 minutes. The tomato will break down and the green beans will be very soft. You can add more curry powder or salt to taste and a squeeze of lemon near the end.
I can’t even eat them any other way now. Do use good salt, see Let’s Talk Salt, for more details.