Spicy Braised Green Beans with Feta are my welcome home to my tiny, well-cherished, and recently abandoned kitchen. In a 22 night span, Ben and I spent only five in our own bed. We’ve slept in six cities, driven 3,592 miles, and consumed more calories than the average Cheesecake Factory serves on a Friday night. It’s good to be back in my own kitchen again.
Don’t get me wrong—I’ve loved our travels and the friends, sites, and foods that have come along with them. From our quad-state Christmas piled high with real-deal Kansas City barbeque, homemade ravioli, and my Grammy’s cooking, to our fish taco-stuffed week in San Diego, to our Tennessee barbeque, pizza, and other-wise deep-fried weekend in Nashville, we have lived and eaten well these past three weeks. I found new flavors while visiting old friends, and I hope to share many of them with you here.
The end of a long stint of traveling leaves me with mixed emotions. I’m looking forward to finally taking down our Christmas tree (embarrassing) and sticking around long enough to finish a gallon of milk, but I also miss the sense of abandon that traveling gives me. Vacation is an opportunity to experience the new, to be excessive, and to postpone healthy habits until we return home to reality.
Home for me is the kitchen, and as I reflect back upon the tastes of our travels, I want to bring the excitement and spice of trying a new restaurant or regional specialty to my kitchen. Though I’ll never be able to recreate the magic of legit barbeque served up in a Kansas City gas station, I can capture a sense of uniqueness with my cooking. Spicy Braised Green Beans with Feta are the first dish I made upon returning to Madison, and they proved to be an ideal culinary bridge between vacation and “real life.”
Braising is a fancy-sounding culinary technique that essentially means first cooking something on high heat, then reducing the heat, sealing it, and allowing it to cook slowly in its own yummy juices. The benefits of slow cooking are that the flavors have a long time to develop, and tougher vegetables or cuts of meat tenderize beautifully. Braising is also an easy way to transform an otherwise plain ingredient (green beans) into a complexly flavored dish.
Green beans suffer from neglect. We boil them up, then shove them limply into the shadow of whatever main dish (usually meat) is in the spotlight. I think it’s a shame because crunchy, vitamin-rich green beans have serious potential. With the help of tomatoes, onions, and harissa (a spicy middle-eastern chili paste), Spicy Braised Green Beans with Feta elevate the green bean from a vegetable our mothers once forced us to eat into a side dish worth a second helping. Parsley adds freshness and feta cheese provides saltiness and creaminess.
Plus, cheese is never a bad choice. Life motto.
To ensure the green beans become tender and flavorful in a manageable amount of time (traditional braising can take hours), I added a pinch of baking soda to the recipe. With a bit of this old-kitchen standby, our green beans are perfectly tender (but NOT mushy, ew) and complexly flavored with only 40 minutes of oven time. Fist pump for chemistry!
I braised the green beans in my new favorite kitchen piece: the Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stainless 6.5 Quart Stockpot. Besides being easy on the eyes (yes, I’m shallow enough to rate the attractiveness of my cookware), it conducts heat masterfully and safely transitions from stovetop to oven, making it the perfect vessel for my Spicy Braised Green Beans with Feta.
To celebrate new beginnings in January, I’m teaming up with Anolon and eight fellow bloggers to giveaway a shiny new 11 piece Anolon Nouvelle Copper Cookware Set! To enter the giveaway, use the widget below and complete as many or as few entries as you prefer (a comment is required, but every other action will just increases your chances to win this fab prize.) Please be patient as the widget may take a few moments to load.
Psst! For additional chances to win (and more goodness), check out these fabulous recipes from participating bloggers:
- Climbing Grier Mountain – Tex-Mex Risotto with Chorizo and Red Peppers
- Rachel Cooks – Easy Beef and Vegetable Stir-Fry
- Dessert for Two – Skillet Spanakopita
- Cooking with Books – Orange Ginger Shrimp Stir Fry
- Bakeaholic Mama – General Tso Cauliflower
- Nutmeg Nanny – Spicy Penne alla Vodka
- Garnish with Lemon – Spicy Sweet Chicken Stir-Fry
- Lemons for Lulu – Orange Glazed Pork Chops
Spicy Braised Green Beans with Feta: the oven does the work; you reap the benefits. Goodbye mushy green beans, and hello Mediterranean flavor fest!
Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.