Monday, July 22, 2013

Green Bean Plenty

Mid-July brings a harvest of green beans (some call them "string beans") that moves rapidly into the "embarrassment of riches" period.  After the first several meals of simply prepared beans (I usually just cook them until fully tender and add butter, salt and pepper), it begins to be time to think of something else.
One popular idea I haven't tried yet is to pickle them (dilly beans).  Another winner is Maan's Green Beans, a recipe that has been passed around the Michigan food blog circuit.  (If you like garlic, you'll love Maan's.)

But my first impulse is to make up a bunch of Ted's Syrian Rice.  This is a meat stew with green beans that freezes quite well.  Like every treasured recipe, it has a history.

Middle Eastern food was essentially unknown in Oklahoma during the 1950s (unless you count Jamil's, where I first tasted tabbouleh and cabbage rolls).  So a dish titled "Syrian" was immediately exotic.  It was the specialty of one of my parents' dear friends, who would occasionally bring a dish of it to our table.  I don't know how he obtained the recipe, but it wasn't from traveling in Syria. It would be interesting to know how it came to include Worcestershire sauce.

Ted used canned green beans (what we mostly had in those days).  I simply cook my fresh beans well before adding them, and I use a lot of beans.  I've also added a pinch of cinnamon to make the dish taste just a little Middle Eastern.

Syrian Rice
modified from Ted Walstrum

1 pound lean ground beef
3 medium onions, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
2 cups cooked tomatoes with juice (or 14.5 oz can)
2 cups - 1 quart cooked green beans, drained
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt, pepper (note canned tomatoes are already salty)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon  (optional)

Cook the onions in butter (Ted's choice) or olive oil until they are translucent.  Remove and brown the ground beef.  Add back the onions and the chopped green pepper.  Mix in the green beans, tomatoes and seasonings.

Cook in a covered casserole at 325° for one hour.  Serve with rice.  (Ted made a hearty brown rice pilaf, but plain white rice or any other similar grain, like bulgur wheat, works just fine.)

This reheats well after freezing (the beans are not supposed to be crisp anyway).  Freeze without the rice.

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