September 08, 2015

Fasolakia (Braised Green Beans)

Fasolakia (Braised Green Beans)

I have three young kids. It is because of those little ones that I find myself watching the same tiny collection of animated films over and over, and inevitably I always find myself crying (don’t tell me I’m the only one, I know you were all bawling like babies during Inside Out). One of my favorites is none other than Ratatouille, the obvious choice for a food loving mom. However, it’s not the cute rat that endears me to the movie, the black and white tiled kitchen, the fact that Alfredo Linguini bears a striking resemblance to my husband, or the copper pots simmering on a gorgeous gas stove. No, what I love most about that film is encapsulated in one line spoken by Chef Gusteau, “Anyone can cook.”


...my friend has fond memories of picking the beans with her sisters from their garden and dropping them straight into the pot...

I believe in that statement so much I have dedicated the last two years of my life to partnering with Holly and hopefully, inspiring those following us that ANYONE can indeed cook. Sure, we love the occasional elaborate recipe with exotic ingredients, but the heart of what we do is aimed at getting more people cooking, creating, hosting and eating well. We recognize that not every meal can be a project and that most of your pantries and refrigerators (and ours as well) are filled with humble ingredients that just need a little love to become incredible, which brings us to the star of today’s post: the GREEN BEAN.

After lamenting about the copious amounts of green beans my mom’s garden was producing and the 20lbs worth I had sitting in my kitchen, a dear friend mentioned that her very Greek mother made the best Fasolakia. Once I grew tired of the obvious pickling, freezing, dipping and steaming, I remembered our conversation and got to work. Greek? Great. Garlicky? Wonderful. Family recipe? Sold.

According to my friend this recipe has been made for at least four generations in her family and, just like my own little one’s helped me harvest, my friend has fond memories of picking the beans with her sisters from their garden and dropping them straight into the pot, then walking to a nearby bakery along the Aegean Sea for a crusty loaf of bread her mother would serve along side the dish. How picturesque!

Here’s the beauty of this recipe (and all recipes for that matter): you follow the steps that someone else has thoughtfully crafted, tested and tweaked over time. You’re relying on their tradition, their palate, their understanding of flavor and balance. All you have to do is cook, and more often than not, the sum equals more than its parts. You benefit from the trial and errors of others, and end up with a beautiful dish. I love how beautifully simple that process is (not to mention entirely delicious).

I’m not suggesting trying a new recipe will result with chef quality results every time, but I can promise you that stepping out of your comfort zone and embracing someone else’s tried and true dishes once in a while will pleasantly surprise you. These Greek green beans did just that for me. They helped me look at an ingredient with fresh eyes, and introduced the legume to my family in an unexpected way that had them all singing my praises (I’ll take that!). My challenge to you is to stop being scared of your kitchen and try cooking something new! As my friend’s Greek mother says before each meal “KALI OREX!” (Good appetite!), because isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Fasolakia (Braised Green Beans)

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sized canned chopped tomatoes or 3 fresh, ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 medium potatoes, cut into chunks
1lb green beans, ends trimmed
1 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp freshly chopped dill
1 1/2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil over a medium high heat in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic and cook till soft (approx 2-3 minutes). Add the canned or fresh tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes.
  2. Next, add the potatoes and stir thoroughly to combine. Once the potatoes are combined add the green beans by laying them on top of the potato mixture. DO NOT STIR.
  3. Over the green beans add the parsley, dill and enough water (depending on the size of your pot) to just cover the beans. Allow to cook for 15 minutes then stir all the ingredients together.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and lower the heat to a low setting and cook for another 30 minutes, until the beans are tender.
  5. Enjoy with a chunk of feta cheese and plenty of crusty, artisan bread.

*This dish’s savory, fresh flavor is only enhanced the next day and is fabulous reheated.

Special thanks to Mary Raftopoulou-Knea for sharing her family recipe.

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