We take for granted some of our most favorite summer vegetable dishes, like this one that I learned from my mother and I cook often, as Costas is particularly fond of it too.
But it took me some time to decide and include it in the foods we prepare with the guests who take part in our Cooking Vacation classes. I considered it too simple and kind of self- evident. I was even more surprised when I saw that JoséAndres, the renown chef and humanitarian, included my recipe in his wonderful new book!
He mentions Kea and writes that his mother’s version of braised green beans was almost identical, minus the potatoes. He concludes his head-note saying “…play around and put your own stamp on this lovely Mediterranean dish.”
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. Tender green beans are so much easier to prepare, but their taste lacks the meatiness of those old beans we called barbounia – the same word used for ‘red mullet.
I wonder if they were so named because they were the quintessence of summer vegetables, the peasant’s ‘red mullet,’ likened to the dainty and most expensive of all Mediterranean fish.
I shouldn’t lament, though; fassolakia ladera, made with any kind of seasonal 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.
In Claudia Roden’s classic Book of Jewish Food (Knopf, 1996) and in Arto der Harouttunian’s A Turkish Cookbook (Ebury Press, 1987) I also found more or less identical recipes for green beans, but without potatoes. Roden also suggests adding sliced zucchini to the beans as my mother often did when she wanted to save time, trimming fewer runner beans but still making enough food for all four of us.