Greek string bean stew

Our Greek cook Vasiliki

During summers years ago when we were excavating a Roman town (with a Stone Age village underneath it!) in Central Greece, we hired a cook whose main qualification was that she was used to cooking at home for a large family. Vasiliki was worried about cooking for Americans, because she didn’t know fancy restaurant cooking, but we told her to just make what she made for her kids at home. That turned out to be fantastic: stuffed zucchini, zucchini scrambled eggs, this string bean stew, and many similar recipes.

In the end, Vasiliki’s only disadvantage was that she didn’t know how to read or write, which meant it was difficult to get written receipts to show the National Science Foundation to show that we had spent our grant money on tomatoes, green beans, and zucchini.

I serve this stew as a main course, with a tomato salad and chopped basil on the side.

Greek string bean stew

How to make Greek string bean stew:

First get your ingredients ready, or you’ll be in too much of a rush (I never do this, and then I’m always sorry when I have to hurry and the onions are burning). Chop an onion, scrub six big potatoes and cut them into bite-size pieces (you don’t have to peel them), and break both ends off of two large handfuls of string beans. The proportions don’t really matter that much; you can put in more string beans if you want.

Now heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat, and add the chopped onion and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic, and stir with a wooden spoon.

When the onion begins to brown around the edges, add the potatoes and the green beans. Mix half a can of tomato paste with two cups of water, and pour it over the top so the vegetables are about halfway in the water. Or, use fresh tomato sauce, if you’ve been making tomato sauce – about two cups.

Cover and let it simmer for half an hour. When the potatoes and beans are soft, even mushy, mix it with salt and pepper to taste. If you want it to taste more Greek, also add 1 teaspoon of oregano and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon.

Vegetarian or vegan?

Naturally vegan. You can make it not-vegetarian by adding a can of tuna or some canned anchovies if you like.

And will it keep?

Yes, like most stews this green bean stew is actually better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to blend. You can microwave it to heat it up. It doesn’t freeze well though.

Published by Karen Carr

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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