Green beans and …
I’m getting ready to leave town Thursday for the long weekend, and I still hadn’t finished off the wonderful green beans I bought at the market last week. There were other things in the vegetable drawer that really needed to be cooked and eaten in the next two days, too because by the time I get home they’d have passed their prime.
Serendipitiously, I had everything I needed to make one of my favorite green-bean dishes: Fasolakia, the lovely Greek summer stew of green beans and tomatoes, herbs and … other stuff. Some recipes call for potatoes. Or Kalamata olives. Me, I decided to throw in a chopped Portobello mushroom, because that’s one of the things I had on hand, and green beans go nicely with mushrooms.
Whatever you add, this is an easy, low-labor dish that shows off the bright flavors of fresh ingredients. I’ve had it made with canned or frozen green beans, and it was tasty, but with fresh, it’s just splendid. Try it with tender new green beans, or as the season progresses, older ones – just cook it a bit longer. It’s gorgeous made with fresh tomatoes, but since the green bean and tomato seasons here don’t really coincide, canned tomatoes work just fine.
Fasolakia with mushrooms
- Olive oil
- A small onion, or half a big one, chopped coarsely
- 2-3 cloves of garlic (or more) minced
- 1 pound of green beans. String them if you need to and cut into 1-2 inch lengths
- 1 large Portobello mushroom, coarsely chopped (optional)
- 1 can of low-salt diced tomatoes and their juice
- A tablespoon or so of fresh oregano, minced, if you’ve got it (yay, herb garden!). A quarter as much dried, if you don’t.
- A generous amount of chopped, fresh Italian parsley – at least a quarter cup.
- Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
Pour enough olive oil into a heavy-bottomed skillet to cover the bottom. Heat and add onions , garlic, green beans and mushrooms. Stir to coat with oil and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the onions and garlic begin to go translucent and the green beans start to become tender (How can you tell? Poke them with a fork!).
Stir in the canned tomatoes and juice, the oregano, parsley and a generous amount of black pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer; cover the pan and continue cooking until the beans are nice and tender but not mushy. Taste and add salt if desired (I rarely do)
With early-season beans, no more than about 10 minutes of simmering is required; as the season progresses and the beans get tougher, you’ll need to cook them longer.
You can serve this as a vegetarian main dish, perhaps with a nice crusty bread to mop up the sauce, or as a side dish. A pound of beans makes two generous main-dish servings (guess what I’m having for lunch tomorrow) or perhaps four as an accompaniment. It’s fantastic with lamb.
(Note: Besides being tasty, tomatoes serve an interesting function in this dish. Tomatoes and other acid foods react with the cellulose in sp,e other vegetables in a way that inhibits the softening process as they cook. You may have noticed this if you’ve ever added tomatoes to a dried bean soup, for instance, or to a potato dish – no matter how long you cook them, the beans/potatoes never quite seem to get “done.” That can be a bother, but you can also use this bit of kitchen chemistry to your advantage: By adding the tomatoes to this dish after the green beans are already fairly tender, you’ll slow the softening and keep them from turning to mush while they absorb the flavor of the tomatoes and herbs.)