Inspired by the flavors of Southern France, earthy green beans, fragrant fennel and juicy tomatoes are combined in this quick and easy side dish. Orange zest, fresh lemon juice, thyme and saffron add sunny background flavors and do their part to keep this stew from being humble. In fact, my family had a French-themed Christmas dinner one year and, instead of fading into the background as side dishes often do, this was one of the dishes that stood out. I prefer canned tomatoes over fresh for this dish; I just think they work better in stews but you can use either. This is the perfect thing to make when green beans are at their peak. This stew makes a great accompaniment to any Mediterranean meal and matches especially well with fish dishes.
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3 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onions
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup water
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1-1/2 pounds green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 cups sliced fennel bulb (1/4-inch thick slices)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 pinch of saffron threads
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Cooking Instructions

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent but not browned (about 5 minutes.) Add the water and tomatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the green beans, fennel, thyme, saffron, orange zest, lemon juice, and a touch of salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the green beans and fennel are tender (15 to 20 minutes.) Add more salt and pepper if needed and serve.

Makes 4 to 6 servings



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elliemay's blog

Try to find green beans that are thin, straight, and deep green in color as they will produce a more attractive and much better-tasting dish. Large, pale, lumpy green beans typically have a woody texture and bland taste.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. If you are on a budget, you can leave it out and still have a nice tasting stew (although it won't be quite as spectacular.) Avoid being tempted by saffron substitutes such as safflower or "Mexican saffron" since these substitutes don't really have much in the way of flavor.

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