The GDC: Chicken, Green Beans & Cherries in Tomato Sauce

Chicken Meatballs in Tomato-Green Bean Stew

While looking for interesting ways to cope with dad’s diet limitations (our Gout Diet Challenge, GDC) as he works to reduce the visible uric crystal deposits (called tophi) on his hands and knees, the flavors of the Mediterranean still resound most strongly. We took a cruise through the Greek Islands many years ago with my parents, stopping in ports only long enough for T and I to make a mad dash through any groceries and bakeries we could find while my parents and aunt took the ship-sponsored tours or hung out in harbor-side cafes. The cruise only emphasized how fruitless it was for us to take a big-ship cruise through these wondrous islands, since you spend no quality time on any island.

It was long enough, however, to introduce us to new flavors. One that has remained a staple in our house since that cruise is Fassoulakia me Domates, Green Beans with Tomatoes. We found a small cafe at the harbor in Hydra and ordered some food to take back with us to the ship, and once on board, skipped the formal ship dinner to feast on our local finds. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the other foods we ordered, there were stuffed vegetables, fish, lamb, etc., but the lovely stewed beans in tangy tomato sauce was something I had to duplicate when we returned home.

At that time, I had one Greek cookbook, “Greek Cooking for the Gods,” by Eva Zane. It had come highly recommended by a friend who regularly cooked from it for her Greek boyfriend, and it was my stand-by for moussaka, spanakopita, and the Easter bread that I loved. The recipe for Fassoulakia me Domates in this book looked promising, but it did not include currants, which had been in the beans we tried from Hydra. I included currants in our first try, and it was a pretty close match. Since then, I’ve also used raisins, sultanas, even diced apricots, and loved the results; and even omitting dried fruit altogether is delicious.

To adapt this recipe for the GDC, I used dried tart cherries (black tart cherries are recommended for gout management) instead of currants. And I added cooked chicken (chicken is better than turkey for gout-sufferers) meatballs to make it a one-dish meal. Without meat, it is an easy side dish for roasted or grilled meats, or a very filling vegetarian entree served with couscous or to stuff a baked potato. Or as a flatbread pizza topping (that’s for bee and Jai)!
(See the new GDC Round-up for more gout-friendly recipes)

Chicken, Beans and Cherries in Tomato Sauce

(Inspired by the gorgeous island of Hydra and heavily adapted from “Greek Cooking for the Gods”)

Chicken Meatballs
1 lb. (450g) ground chicken
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic
1 large egg
1 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients and shape into golf-ball sized rounds. Saute in pan lined with 1/2-inch oil until browned on all sides, or place on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake in tabletop oven for 20 minutes. Add hot to sauce, or cool completely and freeze to make ahead (add to sauce frozen after beans have simmered for 20 minutes, then cook for another 40 minutes).

**To use fresh chicken, use 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast or thigh meat cut into 1-inch cubes. Combine paprika, cumin, peppers and salt (omit oregano) listed in Meatball recipe above, and coat diced chicken in dry mixture. Set aside 30 minutes, then add to Tomato Sauce below after beans have simmered for 20 minutes, then continue cooking for the remaining 40 minutes in the original recipe.

Tomato Sauce
4 TBL. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried cherries (or currants, raisins, sultanas)
1 TBL. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried dill (optional)
6 ripe tomatoes, or 1 28oz. (780g) canned tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine, or chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 bunch fresh Italian parsley (flat-leaf), about 1 cup chopped
1 bay leaf
1 lb. green beans

In large saute pan set over low heat, sweat onions in olive oil until transparent (take your time, this will take 8-10 minutes at least). Add garlic and dried cherries, and cook until both are just softened. Add oregano, thyme and dill (if using), and mix through onion mixture and leave to cook about 2 minutes, or until herbs become fragrant.

Turn heat up to medium high and immediately add tomatoes, wine/broth, parsley and bay leaf. (If you omit the dried fruit completely, add 1/2 tsp. brown sugar to sauce.) Partially cover, and leave to simmer 20 minutes while you prepare beans.

Wash and tip green beans to remove stringy spine. Leave whole or cut into 2-inch lengths, it’s up to your own aesthetics and who you are cooking for. Add to tomato sauce, cover completely and let simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes. Add cooked meatballs, cover and simmer another 30 minutes.

Serve with couscous, quinoa or amaranth (the latter two are very beneficial for the management of gout), fresh pita or other flatbread, or Mestizo Rice. In the photo, it is plated with cinnamon couscous.