Forget about bright green beans. Forget about oil-consumption worries. To appreciate this dish, you have to imagine you’re at a Greek-American restaurant in the 1960s, the kind where all the dishes of the day are laid out on a steam table, the chef ready to ladle up your choice of what was cooked hours ago. Well, dammit, there’s a joy, after all, in long-stewed string beans, a wonderful level of flavor the quick-and-green ones never reach. Down with rabbit food! So the key to getting this dish right is making sure the beans cook long enough. Two hours should be about right . . . but if you’re not sure, let them cook a little longer. You’ll be amazed how delicious they become. In the late stages, there will be nothing but oil left around the beans . . . so add a little water to the pot if you wish to continue cooking. And as you remove the beans from the oil, keep telling yourself the Mediterranean diet is healthy, the Mediterranean diet is healthy.
Recipe: Greek-Style String Beans Stewed in Tomato Sauce and Olive Oil
3 cups water
1 cup smooth commercial tomato sauce
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon dried marjoram (or oregano)
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 lb. fresh string beans, stem ends removed
6 slices of lemon
3 tablespoons minced fresh dill leaves
1. Mix together the first 6 ingredients in a stewing pot. Add the string beans and mix again. Place the pot over high heat, until mixture comes to the boil. Then lower heat to reach a medium simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 2 hours. When done, the beans will be very tender, and the sauce will be mostly red-colored oil. Season with salt and pepper. Remove beans from pot, leaving some oil behind, and place on a platter. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before serving. Or, hold in the refrigerator overnight and serve the next day at room temperature (I think it’s even better this way.)
2. Just before serving, toss beans with lemon slices and garnish with fresh dill.
Makes 4-6 servings as a side dish.