Green beans in tomato sauce (“fasolakia”) & Greek vegetarian cooking with olive oil

Posted on 19 November, 2016 by Nikki Walker There have been 0 comments

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Traditional Greek cooking has a wealth of vegetarian recipes that use olive oil as the key ingredient. Such recipes are simple, easy to cook, everyday dishes that celebrate the abundance of seasonal vegetables or pulses. The olive oil enhances the natural flavour of the vegetables and adds richness and depth to the cooking sauce.  Recent research has shown that eating vegetables together with olive oil actually increases the health benefits associated with Mediterranean diet.

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These dishes go by the collective name of ladera (la-dee-rah)  which comes from the Greek word 'ladi' meaning oil.    Olive oil is not only very tasty but it is also a very healthy cooking fat. A little oil goes a long way. These easy to make dishes allow all sorts of vegetables taking center stage: humble garden peas with artichokes and dill, okra, aubergines and courgettes and of course the all-time-classic green beans in a thick and velvety tomato sauce.

Green beans go by fasolakia in Greece. They are mostly cooked in olive oil and tomato sauce as a delicious, quick and simple dish. All you need for a perfect meal is feta cheese and freshly baked crusty bread to mop up the sauce. Bread aside, fasolakia is a healthy vegetarian dish packed with fibres and the nutritional benefits of olive oil.

Which type of green beans? You can use any kind: string beans, French beans, Romano (flat) beans or wax beans.

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How to cook fresh beans: like most vegetables, green beans lose their nutrients and flavour if overcooked. You don’t want to end up with a sad looking heap of mushy vegetables. The trick is to lightly sauté the beans and the rest of the vegetables in a little olive oil for 5’ before adding the sauce, the herbs and the seasonings and cooking in low heat. In order for the oil to retain its distinctive flavour it must go in at the end of the cooking, 10’ before you take the pot off the heat.

Ingredients (for 4 people) 800gr of green beans - 1 large potato cut in cubes (optional) - 1 large white onion, diced - 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed (optional) - 2-3 medium ripe tomatoes grated (or 400 gr of tinned chopped tomatoes)  - a small bunch of chopped parsley - 400 ml of hot water - 1 teaspoon of sugar - 70 ml extra virgin olive oil - salt and pepper

  Instructions:

  1. Prepare all your ingredients: wash and trim the ends of your beans, if using fresh. If they are too long, you can cut them in half. If using frozen beans, give them a quick rinse, drain and let them thaw for a few minutes.
  2. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic (if using). Peel and cut the potato in cubes. Grate the tomatoes, if using fresh, and chop the parsley. Finally boil 400 ml of water and keep it aside for later.
  3. In a deep pot pour half of the olive oil and heat it up in medium heat. Once hot add the chopped onion, garlic and the potato cubes and sauté for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the green beans and turn all the ingredients gently with a wooden spoon making sure they are nicely turned in oil. Sauté the beans for approximately 5-6 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and mix well. Pour hot water to half-cover the vegetables.
  6. Let the lid rest on the pot without covering and simmer for 20 minutes. You can then add the salt and pepper, the chopped parsley and the remaining olive oil. Stir well and let it simmer for another 10 minutes so that tomato sauce thickens. Bear in mind that every pot and hob are different, so keep an eye on the liquids and adjust the cooking time. In the end there should be enough tomato sauce to mop up with that fresh crusty bread!

 


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