A sweet little side dish recipe to go with your Easter dinner today.
One of my oldest and bestest friends from Spamtown is a first-generation American of Greek heritage (or, actually, generation 1.5; his dad immigrated around the time of the Greek civil war; his mom was native-born) . His family founded the legendary George's Pizza.
Mmmm, greasy pizza cut into little squares. Heaven on earth. And Uncle Dino's Gondola truly was the "Noblest Sandwich of Them All."
One of my treasured possessions is a wedding gift from George and Ethel T (you are both missed), Popular Greek Recipes, published by The Ladies of the Philoptochos Society, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Charleston SC. I've used this cookbook a lot over the years. It is my go-to recipe place for satziki, avgolemono soup, mousaka, pastichio, and today's recipe, fasoulakia yiahni, string beans in tomato sauce.
I will start with a faithful rendition of the recipe (p.186), then discuss modifications below.
|2 lbs string beans||1 large or 2 med. onions, chopped|
|3/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil||1 can tomato sauce|
|2 tsp. salt||dash of pepper||chopped parsley & mint, divided use||feta and lemon wedges for garnish (nonstandard)|
|2 potatoes, cut in quarters||1 cup water|
|1/4 c. chopped celery (optional)||2 carrots, sliced (optional)|
The recipe is basic -- saute the onion, add the tomato sauce and simmer for 15 minutes, add the remaining ingredients and cook on low for about an hour, covered. What follows is my "value-added".
Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pot, such as an enameled dutch oven, and saute onions until soft, about 4-5 minutes. I would add 3-4 cloves of garlic, sliced, and a big pinch of red pepper flakes at this stage, plus salt and pepper (cut the salt in half; you can add more to taste later). Saute for a minute. Add the tomato sauce. I would substitute a large can of crushed tomatoes, or use a small can of crushed tomatoes and a half-jar of plain spaghetti sauce. You want some chunk to the sauce. Add half of the parsley and mint, or substitute oregano if you don't like mint. If you are using oregano, add one cinnamon stick. Simmer for about 15 minutes. You can remove the cinnamon stick at this point, or leave it in if you like a stronger cinnamon flavor to the sauce.
Now add the potatoes (I would rough-chop into chunks rather than quarter), carrots, celery and water. Simmer for 5 minutes. If the sauce is "tight", add another cup of water. Then add the green beans on top. Lower the heat and cover. Cook slowly for 20-25 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender (or about an hour to be "authentic"). The beans should be soft. Stir in the remaining herbs and serve with good bread, a sprinkling of feta, and a lemon wedge.
This makes a great side dish for roasted leg of lamb, roast chicken, or baked ham. And it can be the centerpiece of a vegetarian feast.
Happy holiday to all.