Stringless green beans became widely available in Greece only in the last few years. As far back as I can remember, before we could cook this very popular summer dish we had to slave for hours trimming each one of the flattish beans – a kind of runner bean – that we cooked.
My mother often added sliced zucchini (see variation) when she wanted to save time, trimming fewer runner beans but still making enough food for all four of us. Fassolakia ladera, made with any kind of green beans, even with frozen ones, is an amazing dish! The potatoes take on a wonderful flavor cooked together with the beans in a rich tomato sauce, and I can’t resist eating them while still warm.
Sprinkle with the reserved parsley and serve warm or at room temperature, if you can wait, with crusty bread and Feta cheese.
2/3 cup olive oil
2 cups onions, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt, or to taste
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 pounds fresh runner or young green beans, ends trimmed
1-2 teaspoons Maraş pepper, or a good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound potatoes, cut in 1 ½-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley
A few grindings of black pepper
4-5 vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered and pureed in the blender (yields about 3 cups) or 3 cups canned diced tomatoes with their juice
Feta cheese, for serving (optional)
Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a deep thick-bottomed skillet or sauté pan (an 11-inch pan is perfect). Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt and sauté, tossing often, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, beans, and Maraş pepper. Sauté, tossing, for another 5-6 minutes or until the beans are well coated with olive oil.
Arrange the potatoes on top of the beans in one layer, pressing them to submerge them slightly in the beans. Season with salt and some black pepper, if you like, sprinkle with the parsley – reserving 2 tablespoons for serving – and pour in the tomato. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Check periodically if there is enough liquid in the pan, adding just a few tablespoons of water if the sauce becomes too dry. Taste, correct the seasoning and continue cooking for about 10-15 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan.
When the beans and potatoes are cooked, transfer to a serving platter with a slotted spoon. Increase the heat and cook the sauce until it thickens. Pour the sauce over the beans and potatoes, sprinkle with the reserved parsley and serve warm or at room temperature with fresh country bread and Feta cheese.
Add 1 pound tender zucchini, cut into 2/3-inch slices and sauté with the beans before arranging the potatoes and pouring the sauce over.