This is a traditional Greek dish that many different people in my family have made for my entire life. My Great Yia Yia (Yia Yia is Greek for grandmother), in my opinion made it the very best, I still think of her any time I smell this stew cooking. I can still remember exactly how her kitchen always smelled and just how it felt in there. There is something about the smell of this stew cooking that reminds me of her unlike any other smell can remind me of anything else in the whole world. I am not sure if it was actually this way, but in my mind I swear she had to always have had always something like this, or one of her other stewed green concoctions, cooking on the stove at her house. I swear it always smelled like this. She passed away when I was 12, so my memory is likely not exactly accurate, but that is how I like to remember it anyway 🙂 My dad’s mom, my Yia Yia, also used to make this stew and my Dad and my great Aunt Marge still make it. Even though it is a little different based on who makes it, I absolutely love it every single time. It is one of those dishes that I am not sure anyone in our family has an exact recipe for and I doubt that they ever really measure(d) as they add things. I think it is just made based on what how your own family makes it and then you just taste as you go. That is how I make it.
When we were kids on our birthday as a special treat, my parent would have us request whatever meal we wanted, and they would make it for us. I really don’t recall anything else that I would consistently ask for besides fasolakia, almost every year that was my pick. I think my parents probably thought I was insane. What child requests a vegetable based meal when they can have whatever they want only one meal a year? THIS ONE DID!!
This dish can be made either with meat or vegan, my family usually makes it by cooking it low and slow for many hours with a quickly braised bone-in cut of lamb, but I have also had it without meat and it is still very good. I do think that the meat brings a nice depth of flavor and it adds a lot more taste and flavor with the extra fat. Most times they would pull the bones out just before serving so it isn’t a meat stew by any means, you may get a bit or two or stay meat, but generally it is just for the flavor. This stew may not look like much, but while it’s humble appearance it really packs a punch in the flavor department.
I didn’t have any lamb on hand, but I did have some beef spare ribs in the freezer from our cow share that we got from Sojourner Farms. Since the spare ribs are a fatty cut with a lot of flavor but not a lot of meat to really savor, they were perfect for this. I am not sure exactly how large the package of spare ribs were, maybe 2 lbs or so, it was three small sections of ribs.
I will apologize in advance for the lack of photos with this post, I hadn’t exactly planned on sharing this recipe when I started cooking it. However, when I had mentioned on Instagram and Facebook that I was making it, a handful of people requested the recipe, so I decided I would. My measurements in this recipe won’t be exactly accurate or perfect since I definitely didn’t measure as I went along, AT ALL. But you will get the general idea of the flavors that you want and you can taste as you go to make this exactly how you wish, (you may want to add more or less of something). This stew is great as a side dish with a large meal, or in my opinion it is a wonderful meal on it’s own. Just spoon the saucy stew in a bowl, with some fresh parsley and fresh ground black pepper on top. Maybe some crumbles of feta cheese and a serving of your favorite crusty gluten-free bread. It is absolute heaven in a bowl and it is for me the most comforting kind of comfort food there is.
- 1 package (about 2 lbs) of local pasture-raised beef or lamb spare ribs or a bone-in shoulder piece, etc (something suitable for braising)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (if you are making it without meat)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
- course sea salt
- 1 (28 ounce) can organic diced tomatoes
- 4 or 5 fresh tomatoes diced or quickly processed in the blender or food processor (you could also just add in another can of crushed or diced tomatoes)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence (you could also just use the dried oregano and add some basil or use an Italian seasoning blend, etc)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces if you’d like (you can also use frozen green beans thawed to room temperature)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 small handful fresh dill, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried)
If you are adding meat, heat a large pot or dutch oven over a medium high heat and quickly sear the meat on all side, getting a nice brown crust on each side. If you are making this vegan, just heat the pot over a medium high heat and add the olive oil.
Next, add in the onions, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch or two of sea salt, stirring constantly until the onions are translucent and starting to slightly brown. Reduce the heat and add in the tomatoes, bay leaf, and any dried herbs you are using, plus some salt and pepper. Allow it to simmer for an hour or two, the longer the better, in my opinion.
After the tomato sauce has simmered a while, give it a taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Then add in the fresh green beans, the parsley and the dill. Cook for another hour or so, over a low heat. You want the beans to be a dark army green color and nice and tender, you aren’t looking for a bright green bean with a crisp bite to it.
You can remove the meat when you are ready to serve, or just spoon around it. You can also pull some of the meat off the bones and add it back to the stew, which is really nice. Serve in a bowl with a piece or two of your favorite crusty gluten-free bread and chunks of feta (if you eat dairy) and top with some fresh parsley.