Jim Dixon wrote about food for WW for more than 20 years, but these days most of his time is spent at his olive oil-focused specialty food business Wellspent Market. Jim’s always loved to eat, and he encourages his customers to cook by sending them recipes every week through his newsletter. We’re happy to have him back creating some special dishes just for WW readers.
Romano beans look like green beans that have been run over by a truck. You can only find the long, flat runner beans during their relatively short summer season. Since they’re my favorite green bean, I eat as many as I can while they’re around. For the last decade or so, that meant boiling them for a few minutes, then letting the beans cool and eating them with an anchovy-spiked vinaigrette and chopped hard-boiled egg, which is so tasty I never felt like making anything else with romanos.
But earlier this year, a famous food writer introduced me by email to Robyn Eckhardt, another famous food writer. She and her husband were coming to Oregon, and I was tapped to provide advice on where and what to eat. Our schedules kept us from any IRL encounters, but we exchanged many pleasant missives about eating in our lovely region, and, as we do in these modern times, we began to follow each other on our respective socials.
And that’s how I discovered zeytinyağlı taze fasulye. Eckhardt and her husband, the photographer David Hagerman, wrote Istanbul and Beyond: Exploring the Diverse Cuisines of Turkey after spending years exploring the last remnants of the Ottoman Empire, poking around small village markets and persuading bakers, cheesemakers and home cooks to share their favorite dishes. Earlier this month she bemoaned the coming end of summer and the last chance to make zeytinyağlı taze fasulye.
“Zeytinyağlı” (pronounced like this) is Turkish for foods—mostly vegetables—that are slowly cooked in olive oil until they’re soft and tender, a technique used across the Mediterranean olive belt. In this case, green beans, or taze fasulye, simmer in extra-virgin with onions and tomatoes, a combination found everywhere from Spain (judías verdes con salsa de tomate) to Italy (fagiolini in umido) to Lebanon (loubya bi zayt). The dish’s ubiquity is easy to understand once you taste it; the combination is unbelievably delicious, especially considering the short list of ingredients.
And zeytinyağlı taze fasulye is more technique than recipe. The only measurement that really matters is the olive oil’s. Use plenty. Apparently some Turkish cooks claim the dish must be cooled to room temperature in its cooking pot, a bit of folk wisdom that carries an important truth about the best way to eat these glorious beans.
Turkish-Style Romano Beans and Tomatoes
1 medium onion, quartered and sliced
2-3 medium tomatoes, about 2 pounds, coarsely chopped
1 pound romano beans, trimmed and cut into roughly 2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon kosher-style sea salt
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Put onions, salt and olive oil in a heavy pot with a lid, like a Dutch oven, and gently cook over medium heat until the onions begin to soften. Add tomatoes and beans, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Check after about 20 minutes and, if needed, add a little water to make sure the beans are covered.
Cook for another hour, then try a bean. It should be very tender. Simmer uncovered for another 20-30 minutes to concentrate the flavors and cook off some of the water. While the finished dish should have some liquid, you don’t want soup. Allow the beans to cool to room temperature before serving.