Some meal preparations lend themselves to teamwork. Our mother would make this simple, wholesome and economical dish of green beans and potatoes about once every couple of weeks, and each time she would invite us to join her, as she prepared the beans for cooking. We would sit with her at the kitchen table (which was, of course, covered in plastic) faced with a bowl full of green beans. One by one, we would take the beans, and carefully snip off each end. The trimmed ends would collect in a pile on the table, and the beans would be placed in a colander, to later be washed.
Alone, our mother probably could have gotten through the beans in about 5 minutes. With us helping, it easily took half an hour. Looking back, it is clear that she purposefully set a very slow pace, to keep us at that table with her for as long as possible. We didn’t mind, especially because this was a pretty mindless task. And because it was mindless, it allowed our minds to wander to other things. During these bean trimming sessions we would talk about our previous days events, our day so far, and our days to come. Also, it always seemed easier to broach sensitive topics when everyone’s eyes and attention appeared to be focused on the task at hand. We had some great conversations over green beans; lovely bonding moments. As children, we actually didn’t love eating this dish, but we certainly loved helping to prepare it.
This recipe uses a simple, Greek peasant-like style of cooking, producing a meal which falls into the category of dishes known as lathera. Lathi means oil in Greek and lathera implies oily. In these dishes, which are usually vegetarian and stew-like, ingredients are cooked in an abundance of olive oil and often with the addition of tomato and herbs, or other flavorings, like garlic. When serving these green beans and potatoes, be sure to add some of the delicious oil and tomato-based sauce to each plate.
The green beans are the star of this dish, so it is best to use the freshest, most delicious beans you can find. The recipe below asks that you trim your green beans, which simply means snipping off each end, and discarding it. Particularly long beans can also be cut in two.
Our parents use their own homemade tomato sauce in this dish (which we are planning to make with them at the end of the summer…so stay tuned!). If you have your own homemade tomato sauce, use that. If not, use any good quality tomato juice or sauce that you can find.
Our parents often add large chunks of zucchini to this dish (don’t look for the zucchini in these pictures….they didn’t use it this time 🙂 ). If you decide to add some zucchini yourselves, simply cut it into chunks, unpeeled, and add the pieces to the pot after you add your beans; set your zucchini on top of the beans. This way, the zucchini will steam as they cook. This is a delicious addition to an already great dish, and definitely worth a try. Or, you can decide to use your zucchini to make zucchini chips, also a good idea ;).
This meal, by itself, is a nutritious and filling vegan option. If you are eating dairy however, we suggest adding a nice hunk of feta to your plate at serving time. The feta, along with some fresh bread and a variety of olives, turns this wonderful, but humble dish, into a feast.
Mia Kouppa: Green beans with Potatoes
- 730 grams of green beans
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) Greek olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1 cup (250 ml) tomato juice (or homemade tomato sauce)
- 2 1/2 cups (625 ml) water
- 3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and each potato cut into quarters
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) salt
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) ground black pepper
- Trim your green beans and then wash them well. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté your onion and garlic, stirring constantly so that they do not burn. After a few moments (when your onion has just begun to get translucent), add the green beans to the pot. Stir well.
- After stirring in the green beans, add to the pot the tomato juice or sauce, water, potatoes, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine.
- Cover the pot and allow to cook over medium heat for approximately 50 – 60 minutes. Be sure to shake the contents of your pot every 15 minutes or so. You should also check your pot occasionally and give the contents a stir; there should always be liquid present in the pot. If there is not, add more water, 1/2 cup at a time.
- Enjoy this meal with some bread, feta cheese and a side of some olives.