I've tried to keep the mouth-watering, garlicky flavor she used, but have cut down on the oil to make it lower cal for those of us who need to watch our waistlines. She would literally pour the olive oil (cold-pressed from the olive trees right on the family’s land) by the cupful into the pot. I measure out a couple of tablespoons instead. It's still delicious.
I could only wish for such a thing.
This dish is sometimes made with lamb shanks or a similar tougher, less-than-prime meat cut.
But contrary to what many think about traditional Greek cuisine, vegetables and legumes typically figured much more heavily in the daily diet than meat did.
So I’ve stuck to the vegetarian incarnation of this recipe that can be served either as a delicious side dish or as a complete meal when you add a few cups of white beans to the pot.
The vegetarian version is also dirt cheap. It makes about 6 servings as I make it, at a cost of about $5. Served with a tossed salad of greens and cut up vegetable, and some nice, whole grain bread, the total cost comes in well under $8 for the meal, or approximately $1.35 per serving.
But if you so choose, you can easily use chicken backs, thighs, or legs, or a similar cheaper cut of meat in this recipe. It will add about $2-3 to the total cost of the meal if you buy the chicken on sale (the ONLY way to ever buy meat) for $.99 a pound or less.
That would be bone-in meat, of course, and not the super expensive boneless variety.
However, I actually planned this meal today because it’s July and we have an abundance of green beans from our small, urban garden. So it was even cheaper for me.
My husband got the potatoes and onions at the local farmer’s market this week for very good prices, around 35¢ a pound for the potatoes and around 40¢ a pound for the onions. In our local grocery store, the potatoes were available for 56¢ a pound, and onions were about 75¢ a pound.
While my green beans cost us only the price of the seeds my husband planted way back in April, fresh green beans were available in the store for $1.50 a pound. You can also use frozen green beans for this recipe, of course, but there is nothing quite like the flavor of fresh.
That is particularly true with green beans. If you've never had them, then you are in for a very rare treat, indeed.
Stove Top Cooking
As it happened, when I cooked this I got a late start on preparing dinner due to some chores that took longer than anticipated. That meant I ran out of time to let the recipe properly simmer the way any good stew should -- usually about 90 minutes in this case.
Pressure Cooker/Easy Pot Cooking
So that called for a different cooking approach. Fortunately, I have a pressure cooker on hand that I use often to cook dried beans and soups, so I pulled it out as soon as I realized that I was running late, and poured the contents of the cooking pot into it.
Under pressure, the potatoes and beans cooked to perfection in their savory tomato sauce in about 10 minutes. All I had to do was stir in the cans of beans, and violà – with a fresh salad and whole grain bread - we had a wonderful summer meal that cost very, very little.
RELATED: I talk more about cooking with a pressure cooker (which is marketed today as an instant pot) in another blog.
Just bear in mind that it is not a necessary item to have for this recipe – a large, covered pot like the one I started out with does just fine. It is also an excellent candidate as a slow cooker recipe. I would simply cook up the garlic first, and than load everything into the cooker and leave it on low for 4-6 hours.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes approximately 6-8 generous servings
Prep Time – About 20 minutes
Total Start to Finish Time – Approximately 90 minutes on the stovetop, or
10-20 minutes in the Easy Pot or regular pressure cooker
Total Recipe Cost - $5-8
Total per person meal cost with salad and bread - approximately $1.00-$1.50
2-3 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil
5+ cloves of garlic (you really cannot use too much garlic in this recipe!)
1-3 medium onions
4-5 small-medium potatoes
1-2 pounds fresh or frozen green beans (enough to make 4-6 cups, but more is perfectly fine, too)
1 large can (29-32 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 cup water (approximate)
2-3 cans (15-16 ounce size) white cannellini beans
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Meal:
Green Bean Stew
Tossed Green Salad
Whole Grain Bread (optional)
Recipe continues after photos
- Cut off the tips of the 5+ garlic cloves, peel them, and cut/chop them into very small pieces.
- Cut off the stems of the 1-3 medium onions, peel them, and dice them relatively fine.
- Scrub the 4-5 large potatoes with a nylon brush or pad and cut off any badly damaged parts. You can also peel them if you like, or if the skin is in very bad shape, but there is nutrition and fiber in the peels, so I generally prefer to leave mine on.
- Cut the potatoes lengthwise in half and then into quarters. Cut across the quarters to make pieces about 1-inch in size. Give them another rinse under cold water.
- Wash the 1-2 pounds of green beans, and cut off the tips. Cut them into pieces about 2-inches in length.
- Add the 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot with a lid place over medium heat.
- Once the oil is hot (be careful since olive oil has a much lower burn temperature than other vegetable oils, so it may start to smoke pretty quickly. If that happens, simply pull the pan off the burner and let it cool a bit before proceeding.), add the onions to the oil.
- Cook the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the chopped garlic to the onions and cook them for about 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the 29-32 ounce can of crushed or diced tomato product and the 1 cup of water to the pan and stir to blend well. Add the green beans and potatoes and stir to distribute evenly.
- Cover the pot and bring the contents to a boil over high heat. Once the pot is boiling, reduce the heat to medium-medium low, or whatever temperature your stove requires to maintain a steady, slow bubbling/simmer.
- Let the contents simmer for about 60 minutes. Set a timer to remind yourself to check it periodically to make sure it is not boiling too fast or too slow, and to make sure you don’t need to add more water. If it does look like it’s getting too dry, then gently stir in some water in ½ cup increments, as needed.
- Meanwhile, drain and rinse the cans of beans.
- When the timer goes off, test the potatoes in the stew with a fork. If they need more time, add it in 15 minute increments. When they are tender, gently stir in the drained beans.
- Serve the stew in bowls or on a plate, as desired, along with a tossed, leafy green salad and the optional whole grain bread.