Green Beans Two Ways
Amp up the Thanksgiving table staple with recipes from the Middle and Far East.
Photos by Leah Lizarondo
I have nothing against green bean casserole. But I think it may be solely responsible for getting the lovely legume stuck in the 1950s. Even iceberg lettuce experienced a resurgence for a while there when the “iceberg wedge” became an acceptable hipster remake of the trusty “salad with ranch dressing.”
To start, “green bean casserole” definitely needs an SEO consultant because the top three Google results for it involve Paula Deen, Campbell’s and, of course, French’s. A traditional green bean casserole made by Paula Deen using Campbell’s and French’s is almost half your day’s worth of sodium and saturated fat. *shudder*
Green beans may not be fancy vegetables, but they usually are something everyone agrees on. Even the staunchest non-veggie eaters grudgingly consume them, given the right circumstances. Those “circumstances” used to mean doused in pseudo-mushroom sauce and fried onions, but I think these two recipes will push the skeptics to appreciate the legume (and maybe even venture into other uncharted vegetable territory).
PLUS, it’s the holidays, so it’s the perfect time to change up the Thanksgiving table staple. Below I offer up two recipes: one from the Far East and one from the Middle East. They are both very simple but offer very different flavors.
The first, Green Beans with Sesame Dressing, is a Japanese classic. It calls for making a paste out of sesame seeds, and I alternate between using a mortar and pestle to do this or a food processor, depending on the quantity (and my level of patience). The Japanese have a special bowl with grooves — called suribachi — reserved especially for this purpose. I’ve seen suribachi at the East End Food Co-Op and the Tokyo Japanese Store on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Of course, you can always get it online. It has been on my wish list forever.
The second is my own interpretation of another classic — this time from Lebanon: Loubieh b Zeit, or Green Beans in Olive Oil and Tomato Sauce. This is a classic Lebanese meze, and the spices can vary from the simplest salt and pepper to cumin or allspice to making your own “seven spice” blend — a little bit of trouble but worth it on special occasions. There are many recipes out there for this blend because the ratio of each spice used varies from household to household. I included a link to one in the recipe below. For everyday cooking, I typically alternate between using cumin and allspice. Be generous with the olive oil in this dish. The gravy with tons of garlic, onions and tomato sauce is so amazing that everyone at your Thanksgiving table will fight over it, bread in hand, ready to sop up every smidgen that remains.
Green Beans with Sesame Dressing
Yield: Serves 4
- 2 cups green beans, steamed to al dente (do not overcook!)
- ⅓ cup toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
- Salt to taste
1. Place all ingredients in a food processor and process to a paste; be careful not to overprocess into tahini-like smoothness — you want it to have texture.
2. Toss with the green beans and serve.
Loubieh b Zeit
Yield: Serves 4
- 2 cups green beans (12-15 ounces)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 5-7 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 ½ cups pureed tomatoes or diced tomatoes with the juice
- 1 teaspoon cumin or allspice or a seven-spice blend
- Salt and pepper
- Chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
1. In a pan, on medium, heat olive oil. Add onions and sauté until soft.
2. Add garlic, and sauté for a minute or so. Do not burn the garlic.
3. Add the green beans and the spices. Sauté to coat the green beans.
4. Add the tomatoes, stir to coat the beans and bring to a gentle boil.
5. Lower the heat, cover and let simmer until the green beans are al dente. (Most loubieh b zeit I’ve had at restaurants have overcooked green beans. I like the dish better al dente.)
6. Place on a serving dish and top with chopped parsley.