In my experience, Georgians are quite serious about cooking veggies sufficiently. My experience with actual Georgians, of course, is limited to my relatives from the American South. From that side of the family, I inherited a proud tradition of well-cooked plant material, often with a pork product of some kind thrown into the mix. But these beans are a gift from the other Georgians. Usually, I just do veggies in the usual manner of yuppies-to-be: Steamed until barely cooked, or roasted with olive oil. So these beans seem frighteningly well done at first glance. But they are magnificent. Warm, spicy, creamy, flavorful, the beans themselves are oddly juicy. An altogether different beast from the smattering of long crunchy pods that occasionally turn up on restaurant platings.
(A green bean confession: When I was a child, one of my favorite snacks was can of Del Monte cut green beans. My mom would refrigerate them for me and crack open a can when I pleaded with her. And then I would gobble them up, fishing for each one in the can of briny juice. There is something about the texture of these beans that recalls that wonderful childhood memory. I know this doesn't seem like much of an inducement--indeed, you might be wondering if you can trust my taste at all at this point--but I still urge you to give this recipe a try.)
I've served them with a version of these tiny meatballs and pita bread, but they're brilliant as a side for baked chicken, too.
Green Beans in Herbed Yogurt
(slightly altered from Nigella's Feast)
Start a large pan of water boiling while you top and tail, then cut into thirds:
2 pounds fresh skinny green beans
Parboil the beans for about 5 minutes. They should still be bright green and crisp when you drain them and run cold water on them.
Peel and halve:
2 large sweet onions
Dump them in a food processor (or mince finely), with:
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
good grinding of black pepper
4 Tablespoons butter (Nigella calls for a full stick. I find them satisfying with this much, but don't let me stop you from going whole hog.)
Cook the spices and onions until soft. Add the parboiled beans and cover. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, beat together in a large Pyrex measuring cup:
1 cup Greek yogurt (or other full fat yogurt)
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon salt (don't skip the salt)
1 clove garlic, microplaned or finely minced
When the beans are soft, add to the pan:
2 Tablespoons each of chopped cilantro, parsley, and dill
(NOTE: I have yet to make this with all of the proper fresh herbs on hand. I've compromised by adding dried versions of any of the fresh herbs I don't have to the yogurt mixture. The dish is still a hit.)
Turn off the heat immediately, put the beans on a plate and pour the yogurt over them, then sprinkle with:
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Or serve the yogurt on the side with mint (fresh or dried) blended in for your guests to pour themselves.