I am the first to enjoy vegetables in their crisp form, full of bright flavor and snap and barely blanched. Over cooked, boiled to almost a mush green beans are a culinary crime. Or so I thought until I had Turkish green beans gently braised in olive oil, or Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye. Crisp-tender green beans are highly overrated.
Turkish green beans in olive oil are utterly delicious and bring out an unexpected depth to the vegetable. Soft, mellow onions, sweet tomatoes, and fragrant garlic add complexity to the slowly cooked green beans.
Zeytinyağlı is the Turkish name for vegetables long cooked in olive oil until incredibly soft with onions and tomatoes, then cooled and served at room temperature when the flavors are at their peak. Zeytinyağlı, or olive oil dishes, can be kept for several days, with the flavor improving over time. Be sure to bring the dish to room temperature before serving.
The next time you get your hands on fresh green beans, I urge you to put aside your instinctive desire to blanch until crisp tender and instead, gently braise in olive oil until meltingly soft. The Turks have been doing something right for all these years. You will not regret it.
Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye, or Turkish braised green beans in olive oil
1 lb green beans, trimmed and sliced in thirds or fourths
1 large onion or 2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2/3 cup olive oil
1 cup water
1.5to 2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Cut a large X in bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife. Blanch tomatoes in a 3-quart saucepan of boiling water for 10 seconds, then immediately transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain, peel, and coarsely chop.
Heat olive oil in a wide 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat, add onions and garlic, cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes.
Add beans, water, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to moderately low, then cover and simmer until beans are very tender, about 45 minutes.
Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature, uncovered, about 45 minutes. Serve beans with juices.