Fasoulia bi Zeit

A plate of fasoulia bi zeit with lemon wedges and bread

The next stop on our little tour of the Middle East is Israel, with a version of fasoulia that uses green beans rather than dry beans.

Of course Israel has one of the great “melting pot” cuisines of the world. Jews emigrating from all over the world have brought the foods they were used to eating, and it has all blended together with the dishes of the Arab populations they have displaced. The most common name I saw for the dish, when I searched for “Israeli fasouli”, was Sephardic green beans, but I also saw it called Turkish green beans, and the same dish is also served in all the various Arab nations around Israel, so it’s not entirely clear if it came with the Sephardic Jews from the Iberian peninsula, or if they were just the first group of Jews to adopt the local dish into their repertoire. Rather than give credence to one group or another’s claim on the dish, I’m choosing to use the Arabic name, fasoulia bi zeit, literally “beans with oil”.

I did find a handful of recipes for a dry bean fasoulia labeled as Israeli, but given that I quickly found 10 recipes for the green beans, but only 3 for the dry I figured I’d share this one to give something a little different. Interestingly, the recipes I came up with for both versions are vegan, (although a couple of the source recipes did include meat- just not enough to make it above my threshold to include in my version). Since Jews don’t mix meat and dairy in the same meal, having some vegan side dishes that can work with either is certainly a plus. Looking ahead I think there will be another version of this dish that includes meat for one of the upcoming countries.

So, the secret to this dish is the long cook time. I know, cooking vegetables until their mush isn’t really in fashion any more, but I think the tragic side of that is that we’ve lost touch with some delicious dishes. Don’t get me wrong, I generally prefer my green beans lightly steamed and still a little al dente. But when you combine the beans with tomatoes, and let it all braise away for 45 minutes or an hour, the tomato sweetens, and the beans absorb that flavor, and you wind up with a set of flavors that you just can’t get with a shorter cooking time.

Obviously I’m making this out of season; it would be at its best in late summer with garden fresh tomatoes and green beans. The flat romano type beans are especially well suited for this treatment, but any type of green bean works fine. A high quality, flavorful olive oil certainly doesn’t hurt. I enjoy it just as is, but garnishing with some fresh herbs like mint or dill wouldn’t be out of place either. Since it’s a dish most often served cold or at room temperature it would work well as part of a meze or similar spread of appetizers.


Fasoulia bi Zeit

Serves: 4
Prep: 0:30
Cook: 0:45
Total: 1:15

1 lb green beans

3 medium tomatoes
OR
1 14 oz can diced or whole tomatoes
1 pinch black pepper, or to taste

2 ½ Tablespoons olive oil (plus more to serve)
1 medium onion, diced small
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

½ cup hot water, or as needed. 

Lemon wedges, to serve

Optional: 

1 Tablespoon tomato puree
½ cup vegetable stock, in place of water. 

Trim the stems and tails from your green beans, and snap in half if they are excessively long. Set aside.

Heat a pot of water to boiling. Cut a shallow cross in the blossom ends of the tomatoes and immerse them in the boiling water for 60-90 seconds, until the skins split. Use a slotted spoon or a fork to lift the tomatoes out and let cool until you can handle them. Peel the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds, and dice the flesh. Set aside. (If using whole canned tomatoes you can simply break them up with a spoon when you add them to the pan with the onions.)

Heat oil in a skillet or large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid. Add the onion, garlic and salt and sauté over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until onion is translucent.

Once the onion is soft, add the tomato and black pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or so, until the tomato softens and releases it’s juice. 

Add the green beans and ½ cup hot water. Stir to coat beans with tomato, cover, and allow to simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the beans are soft and infused with the flavors of the sauce. Do not stir too frequently- once or twice should be enough. If things start to stick you can add a little more water and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. 

When beans are soft, taste for seasoning, remove from heat and allow to cool.

Serve cold or at room temperature, drizzled with more olive oil, and lemon wedges on the side. 

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