Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Lebanese-Inspired Green Beans

All the Vegan MoFo posts I've seen so far have been amazing! Have you seen the official round ups? I'm already beginning to feel overwhelmed by new ideas. I could barely decide on what to make. Waffles! No, tempeh marsala! But I have so much fresh produce just begging to be made into something delicious! I could make homemade nondairy cheese! I was beginning to get food fatigued, and JD suggested going to one of our usual haunts. I was hungry and the easy way out sounded good, but I really wanted to make something since I had the day off and the time, so we stayed in, and I made one of our favorite dishes. 

When I was growing up, my older brother worked at a Middle Eastern restaurant for one of his first jobs. He introduced me to Lebanese green beans. Unfortunately, I forgot all about them for many years. 

When I worked at the Natural Epicurean, one of my assignments was to study different cultures and their recipes and create flavor profiles. One of the regions I studied was Iran, and Persian food. I fell in love with the philosophies and flavors used in Persian food, and created a few vegan dishes inspired by them. Luckily, while doing my research, I came upon a recipe for Lebanese green beans, and have been making them ever since.

I make a Persian inspired yellow rice that I'm sure is nothing like actual Persian yellow rice, but which we love a great deal, and I serve it with these Lebanese style green beans and, on special occasions, Tempeh in Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce. The yellow rice is rich and savory and provides a perfect contrast for the tangy, sweet, garlicky, complex flavor of the green beans. On the few cold days we have in Austin, I make the green beans more like a soup, served in a bowl, and let the rice add bulk. The leftovers, if we have any, are especially fantastic, as the flavors are more developed.

When green beans are in season and inexpensive, I make this once a week or so. Filling and flavorful, the rice and veggies are usually all we need to make a meal. This week I was feeling like I hadn't really had much protein, so I cooked some up, but really, they faded into the background of this meal. When your vegetables are this delicious, who needs anything else?

Lebanese-style Green Beans
by Christina Terriquez

good extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
sea salt
3-6 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 lbs. fresh green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
32 oz. can of stewed tomatoes, juice separated from tomatoes
advieh, optional
black pepper, optional

In a heavy pot, heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil gently over medium heat. Once it starts to shimmer, add the onions and a pinch of salt and saute until onions turn translucent.

Add 2/3 of the garlic and a pinch of salt and saute.

Add the green beans and a pinch of salt, and saute for two minutes.

Add liquid from canned tomatoes. If you're adding advieh, add it now.

Cut the stewed tomatoes up. I prefer them to be finely minced, but you can slice them or cut them into chunkier pieces. Add the tomatoes to the pot and simmer for at least twenty minutes. After ten minutes, the green beans will turn bright green, and you will want to turn off the heat and eat them immediately, resist this urge! They will be wonderfully tender and flavorful in ten more minutes.

After twenty minutes, taste the green beans and sauce and season. Sometimes it just needs salt, sometimes it needs more garlic.


I only use about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, but most recipes will call for 1/4-1/2 cup. More oil will give a richer feel, and fruitier flavor (if your oil is good), but I find it hard to enjoy the dish when I know there's that much oil in it.

Advieh is a spice mix used extensively in Persian food. It will vary greatly from home to home, but generally consists of dried roses, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and saffron. It is extremely fragrant and is a wonderful addition to this dish, but is not necessary. If you'd like to make some yourself, this is a nice recipe, although there are many others online. The most important thing is make sure you use food grade dried roses, which are available online and from most middle eastern groceries and some natural food stores (usually in the bulk bins).

Serve over your favorite rice, like jasmine or brown basmati.

To make this a soup, add about 4 cups of water or vegetable broth and season.

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