Most cities and towns, at least the ones in which I’ve lived, have at least one Greek Orthodox church. I know nothing about the Greek Orthodox church, but I know the most obvious fact: Greek people attend them, and Greek people make delicious food. The churches typically have an annual Greek Festival that lasts a weekend where they serve delicious Greek specialities. The festivals that I’ve attended also have other attractions, like booths to purchase random stuff and Greek dancing, but I’m always there for the food, and by the looks of things, that’s the top priority of everyone else in attendance, too.
For me, the pastries are the most important part of a Greek Festival. There is baklava, butter cookies and honey cake– there are a lot of more options, too, but I can only name my favorites off the top of my head. Although the pastries tempt me most, though, I’m never too focused on them to skip the real food. The meals served are pretty typical Greek fare. You can get gyros, stuffed grape leaves, Greek salad, spanakopita, lamb. It’s a pretty big spread, but at the festivals I’ve been to, there’s always a pretty standard meal that everyone seems to get.
Unfortunately, I’m not here to share with you an impressive, out-of-this-world Greek entree that I recently had at a Greek festival. I’m here to share a humble Greek side dish that I heard about from a Greek lady who has fig trees in my mom’s neighborhood via my mom a few years ago. I remember my mom telling me about the dish, Greek green beans, and how great and simple the Greek lady told her they were, but I had pushed aside all recollection of it until I came across this recipe. The recipe happens to be exactly like the one my mom told me about: Put a can of green beans and a can of tomatoes in a pot with a little oil and garlic, and let them be for almost an hour. In return for your lack of effort, you’ll be rewarded with soft, garlicy green beans that you won’t want to stop eating.
These green beans are a perfect, succulent year-round side dish, and the only problem I find with them is a complete non-problem: They require too little work. That’s right, too LITTLE effort is a problem! When they say to not stir the ingredients together when you first put them in the pot, they really mean it. You only stir at the end of the recipe, not starting off; the ingredients melt into each other and turn out perfectly, but you’ll really have to exhibit some self-control and suppress all of the ingrained cooking reflexes that you have (if you’re like me and have abnormal urges to watch and mess with the food you’re cooking). However, once you accept that you add the ingredients to a pot and temporarily forget about them, you’ll be wondering why you haven’t been making these for years.
Greek green beans
adapted from Bean by Bean: A Cookbook via The Splendid Table
Note: The original recipe calls for fresh green beans and blanching, steps that I don’t think are necessary for this dish. You want meltingly tender beans, and you can easily achieve that effect with canned beans. Plus, it dirties fewer dishes.
If you are cooking these on a gas stove, reduce heat to low when I say to turn to medium-low. If using an electric stove, follow the instructions below.
2- 14 ½ ounce cans green beans
5 medium garlic cloves, minced
1- 14 ½ ounce can diced tomatoes, strained
1. In a large, straight-sided skillet, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Scatter the garlic over the oil, then the beans, and finally the tomatoes. Don’t stir, and set the pan on the stove over medium heat. Immediately cover with a tight fitting lid.
2. Once you hear the oil sizzling, reduce the heat to medium low. Cook without stirring for 40 minutes.
3. Check the beans– they should be lightly browned on one side and incredibly soft. If this hasn’t happened yet, cover and continue to cook for 10 to 15 more minutes.
4. Gently stir the beans and tomatoes. If there is any liquid in the skillet, turn the heat to medium/medium-high and stir constantly until the liquid has evaporated.
5. Turn off the heat. Season the beans with salt and pepper, and sprinkle a pinch of cayenne and two pinches of dill over the beans, stirring once more to mix them in. Serve.