Grecian Green Beans

Stew up this season’s green beans for a Greek twist to a summer meal.

by John D. Ivanko
PHOTO: John D. Ivanko/

There’s nothing like fresh green beans. Here in Wisconsin, we harvest them by the bucketful in mid-July in Wisconsin. Just as with excess zucchini, we’re always looking for new ways to use the influx of green beans our garden produces every year. While we have a standby al dente preparation of green beans tossed in balsamic vinaigrette, cumin, coriander and salt, we recently rediscovered a traditional Greek preparation of green beans while staying with our friends Jan Joannides and Brett Olson and their two kids.

During our vacation inner-tubing on the Zumbro River near Zumbro Falls, Minn., we stayed at the family’s century-old stone home, a skipping-pebble’s throw from the river. Every once in a while, we remind ourselves to take a break from the farm chores, food processing and weeding to enjoy the company of great friends, farm-fresh food and a nice long float down a lazy river on a pleasant sunny day.

True to Joannides’ Greek heritage, she whipped up this flavorful Grecian Green Bean side dish with the fresh beans we brought from our farm.

“The Greeks love their vegetables cooked,” Olson says, as we pitched in to clean the green beans.

The slow-simmer process required for this recipe is worth the wait and an exception we happily made to our normal fresh-vegetable preparation: raw or just moderately cooked. The flavor-packed dish was made with a sauce so delicious that we soaked it up with some leftover bread.

“It seems like a lot of olive oil for the recipe, but it’s worth it,” Olsen says. “Even drizzling a little fresh oil right before serving is a good idea. Usually, I serve it with a hunk of feta on top.”

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In tavernas, small restaurants in Greece, it’s common to find these green beans stewed with cubed lamb.

“If you want to add the lamb, pre-cook it,” Olsen recommends. “Brown the lamb in a Dutch oven and add tomato sauce to just cover it for stewing until very tender. Then combine the mixture with the green beans and cook together for another 10 minutes.”

While we worked on the beans, Joannides decided to tackle a raspberry trifle from scratch, with a home-baked sponge cake, rich custard, in-season berries and fresh whipped cream. The smells swirling around this farmhouse kitchen was intoxicating.

Recipe: Grecian Green Beans

Yield: 7 servings


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed
  • 2 medium onions, sliced into 1/4-inch strips
  • 3 cups tomatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 T. fresh oregano (2 tsp. dried oregano)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese


Add olive oil to large sauté pan. Layer ingredients in the following order: onions, green beans, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and salt.

Over medium heat, let layered vegetables and herbs simmer until onions are completely soft and green beans are thoroughly cooked, about 30 to 40 minutes. Add some water to ensure beans are covered while stewing. Near the end, let the sauce thicken.

Take off heat and crumble feta cheese on top. Serve immediately.

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