A quick hotchpot of a side dish for you today. Carrots, green beans, za’tar, and a bit of lime juice.
I cook it on the stovetop but you could just as easily roast it in the oven if you want.
Bless its heart, this one goes against everything the school lunchroom growing up believed in.
As you may remember, I keep a jar of za’atar handy as one of my everyday spices. If you haven’t tried it, now would be a great opportunity. A natural for this dish, especially considering carrots are thought to have originated in central Asia and then on to Africa and on to Europe and so on. Our food sure loves to travel.
Vegetables and the Three Bears
For me, vegetables have gone through three distinct cooking phases in my life in a somewhat Goldilocks fashion.
They all started in what I’ll call the baby food phase. And this applies to both carrots and green beans. Boil them until they’re so soft you can’t spear them with a fork any longer, you have to scoop them up spoon-style. In my lunchroom years this was often accompanied by a pat of melted margarine and some bacon-like bits that were sometimes actually bacon and sometimes not.
Later, for a while, especially in some of the restaurants, the trend was towards a more raw approach. The vegetables themselves were passed through steam like a kid running through a yard sprinkler. Raise the price on the menu and they were now al dente. A kiss of finishing salt as they hit the serving dish and done.
(Raw veg has its place. And it’s a place I like to go. Often. Just not today.)
Now that I do the cooking, and can cook how I want, I go for what we’ll call a baby bear technique. I want them cooked so they’re not still raw but not too much further. Retain the texture but easy to chew. Somewhere between needing a spoon (too soft) and needing a knife (too hard) but perfectly edible with just a simple fork (just right).
We do love carrots. Early season carrots, half-a-dozen inches long or less, no need to peel, and the green tops are yummy.
Of course, we also love late season carrots too. Woody and tougher, peeled, and hold the greens.
I bring this up to highlight how different one bunch of carrots to the next they can be. If they’re already on the tender side, you don’t have to cook them as long. And, if they’re more late-season and mature, you probably want to cook them a bit longer.
Depending on how tender or tough your carrots are to begin with, and of course depending on how tender you like yours cooked, you can vary the cut to suit the situation. Leave them whole as I did and they’re soft enough on the outside with a bit of crunch on the inside. Cut them in half first, and you get more tender. Fourths (almost a matchstick cut) and they’ll cook down even more.
By the way, and I know you already know this but I think it should be said, that little bag of “baby carrots” at the corner grocery store is most likely not younger carrots at all but rather shaved down imperfect carrots packaged for your convenience. They’re fine, but they’re not really baby by any means other than size.
Green beans are another favorite here at the house. Okay, one of the kids doesn’t like them, but that’s never slowed us down. From day one, I’ve been making an old Ottoman Empire recipe with green beans, tomatoes, bit of onion, garlic, and olive oil. (Note to self, need to share that one too.)
But don’t ask me what variety of green beans my favorite are. Last I knew, there were well over a hundred different varieties. I like the ones I don’t have to pull off the string. As in string beans. (Never fail, I used to miss some every time and then the people eating make that weird face when they find one.)
Right now I have to rely on frozen but that’s all right. Growing season’s just around the corner and the farmers market baskets will overflow with them soon enough. I can hardly contain myself.
Can you use yellow or purple beans? Of course. You do you.
Over medium heat in your favorite fry pan, add a glug of olive oil and toss the vegetables to coat them. Because of the lower heat, they’ll take a good 10 to 15 minutes to get some char on the outside and be cooked through.
At the end, sprinkle on a teaspoon or so of za’atar and toss. Cook for another minute.
Into a serving bowl and then I like to hit it with a squeeze of lime juice (or lemon or orange depending on what else I’m serving).
Satisfying, nourishing, affordable, and practical.
Thanks for stopping by.
Carrots, Green Beans, and Za'atar
Carrots, Green Beans, and Za'atar is a satisfying, nourishing, affordable, and practical side dish. Visit suppertimeblues.com to learn more.
- 4 ounces carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces as desired
- 4 ounces green beans
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon za'atar
- juice of half of a lime or other citrus
Clean and cut vegetables.
Heat pan over medium heat.
Add oil and wait until it starts to shimmer.
Add vegetables and cook until desired tenderness, usually 10-15 minutes.
Add spice, toss, and let cook for another minute.
Transfer to serving bowl (or plate) and drizzle with lime juice.
You can easily double or even triple this recipe. Adjust your pan size as needed. Everything should fit flat on the bottom of the pan without being too crowded.