Albania-mania

July 28, 2014

Second in our alphabetical edible tour of the world is Albania, situated on the Adriatic Sea. A handy way

image courtesy of http://www.flags.net

to remember where it is on a map, is that if Italy really was a boot, Albania would get nicked by the heel on the back swing. Now that’s settled on to the food!

I had a little trouble, not for the last time I’m sure, finding a dish that was Albanian specifically. So many empires and countries have controlled the areas in and around Albania for so long, it is unsurprising that a national culinary identity might be difficult to pin down. Under Roman and then Byzantine control for hundreds of years, this was followed by incorporation into the Ottoman Empire in 1431. Independence was not recognized until 1913 and only lasted for a scant few years before Italian and Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Following the end of the war and some power struggles, Albania was a communist state until 1992. This turmoil left little time to develop a citizen based culture in which food could be explored.

Much like other countries in the area, they use fresh vegetables and rely on olive oil heavily. I settled on a simple green bean stew which reminded me very much of Italian and Greek cuisine. This one pot stew is incredibly easy to make and very tasty. There are two flavors which really stand out and give this dish a unique punch. The use of liquid smoke adds a wonderful aroma and flavor without the need to fire up the charcoal. The hero of the dish which separates it from other Italian and Greek preparations is the use of Paprika. It is not uncommon to have it sprinkled on dish of humus for example as an accent, but I rarely find it playing the lead role in seasoning. This trait is more common in Hungary and Romania, which is actually not that surprising, as they are situated only one country away from Albania on the other sides from Italy and Greece.

This stew comes off as almost a thinner, more tomato based goulash, but the green beans playing a lead role keeps it lighter and fresher, more like an Italian dish. You can cook it down to the thickness you prefer and can serve over rice or bread if wanted. I usually only look to green beans as a nice side to pair with a main course but they really step up making this dish healthier. I would absolutely make this dish again, it is fast, easy, tasty and would be a perfect entree anywhere from late summer through early Spring.

Next up, our first trip to the African continent with Algeria…

IMG_2988 IMG_2996

 


Albanian Green Bean Stew

Serves: 2

1 1/2 cups chicken, cut into bite size pieces

2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half

1 small red potatoes, cut into bite size pieces

1 medium onion, sliced thinly

3 -4 garlic cloves

1 medium tomato, diced (or one half of a large tomato)

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon oregano

2 cups vegetable broth

3 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

smoked salt, to taste

————————————————————-

Directions:

1. Heat a medium pot over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When hot enough, add the chicken and saute until golden on all sides about 4-5 minutes. Towards the end at the liquid smoke and Smoked Salt. Remove from pot and set aside.

2. Now add about 2-3 tablespoons of Olive Oil to the pot. Add the onions and saute for a good 8 minutes until they are translucent and tender. If your pot has burned pieces, deglaze it with a bit of vegetable broth. Add the garlic and saute for a minute until fragrant. Now it’s time to add the green beans and potatoes. Saute the green beans and potatoes for about 5 minutes.

3. Now add the tomato, paprika, oregano, chili flakes and season with salt and pepper. Saute for another two minutes. Add the vegetable broth or water and bring to a boil and then to a simmer. After a couple of minutes add the chicken that you have set aside. Simmer the stew for about 45-50 minutes until the green beans and potatoes are tender. If the stew starts to get dry simply add some more broth. Re-season with salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Let the stew sit for 15 minutes or you can eat it has soon has it finished cooking.

 

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