I’d tell you to stick a Post-It right here because, once you try these, you’ll be making them often -- but they’re simple enough that after one time through, you’ll probably remember how to make them forever. These green beans are cooked to falling-apart-ness in what’s essentially a garlic-tomato confit. Every bite is imbued with flavor -- garlicky, a little hot, meltingly tender; the kind of good that, with your first bite, you close your eyes and grow silent.
The traditional Greek recipes in which this method is rooted use as much as three quarters of a cup of olive oil -- too much for me. The few tablespoons here give flavor and allow the green beans to caramelize. Pretty they are not, but with one bite that is moot. Back in my restaurant days, I once received a proposal of marriage from a guest on the basis of these green beans.
Pay careful attention to the details here. Technique is all.
1 pound fresh green beans, tipped and tailed
Vegetable oil cooking spray
3 tablespoons olive oil
About 1 tablespoon medium to finely chopped garlic (5 or 6 cloves)
1 large fresh tomato, chopped (I go ahead and leave the skin on and seeds in; if you are fussier than me, remove both and use only the chopped pulp of 2 tomatoes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few dashes of cayenne
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried dill
1. Blanch the green beans: Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. When the water is boiling, add the green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Drain them well, then rinse with cold water, and drain them again.
2. Spray a large, heavy (preferably cast iron) skillet with a tight-fitting cover with oil, and set it over very low heat. Add the olive oil, scatter the garlic over it, and add the blanched green beans (in contrast to most sautes, the green beans are added when neither pan, nor oil, nor garlic, is yet hot). Scatter the tomato over the beans. Don’t stir.
3. Still keeping the heat as low as possible, cover the beans and let them just barely cook, without stirring, for about 40 minutes. I know it’s hard, but keep on not stirring; leave the heat low enough so that nothing burns. If you like, you can push a few beans back to check on the garlic at the bottom of the skillet. It should not be browning, merely cooking very, very slowly. Some of the beans will be browned on oneside, which is good. If this hasn’t happened yet, cover again and cook for 10, even 15, minutes more.
4. When the beans are soft, lift the lid and stir gently. It is unlikely, but if there’s a noticeable amount of liquid in the skillet, turn the heat up and, stirring gently but constantly, evaporate the liquid off. You want soft, barely-holding-together green beans. They should be slightly shriveled-looking and browned lightly here and there, with a bit of the garlic-tomato jam sticking to them.
5. Turn off the heat. Salt and pepper the beans, sprinkle them with the cayenne and dill, stir one more time, and serve. No, no, you don’t have to thank me.
Variation: Crescent’s More-or-Less Greek-style Green Beans with Gigandes: Gigandes are the truly enormous white lima beans that are typically served at room temperature as an hors d’oeuvre, cooked tender and then braised with a little tomato and a lot of olive oil. But if you soak 2 cups of dried gigandes (see page 348), cook them in a nice savory stock by whatever basic method you like, and then gently stir them into the green beans after they have cooked for about 30 minutes—oh my goodness, what a pleasing vegetarian main dish you have. (If you like, double the olive oil, garlic, and tomato so there will be a bit more with which to coat the gigandes.) This is excellent served with a bulgur or another wholegrain pilaf.
From Bean by Bean: A Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon (Workman Publishing, 2012). Copyright 2012 by Crescent Dragonwagon. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Workman Publishing.
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