green bean salad with caramelized cherry tomatoes

roast green bean salad

The thing that makes this salad delicious is also the thing that makes it easy. You take a single sheet pan, and you slow-roast some cherry tomatoes over moderate heat, until their juices caramelize and nearly burn to the bottom of the pan. Then you remove the tomatoes to the salad bowl, don't wash the pan, and place the green beans right on top of the stuck-on bits of caramelized tomato juices. Throw them back in the oven (this time under the broiler), until they're blistered and charred in a few spots, and then briefly roll them around a little (to your liking) in the semi-melted tomato caramel. Once you notice the inky sepia swipes of tomato juices, you'll realize that what seemed burnt is actually just deeply browned and savory.

roast green bean salad
roast green bean salad
roast green bean salad
roast green bean salad

This salad was inspired by my grandmother's lubiyeh b'zetha (green beans in oil). It has a bunch of the same ingredients, but it's made with a totally different method, and I've added a few things to round it out as a salad. Part of what makes lubiyeh b'zetha itself is the method it's prepared with; the green beans are steam fried until al dente, which gives them both a sautéed flavor and lovely texture. So even though this salad is technically also green beans in oil, it tastes totally different from the original, and it's a nice variation on the same basic ingredients. But if you haven't tried the original, I highly recommend it, because it's a Middle Eastern classic for a reason.

Until summer is over, I'll be cooking with as many green beans as possible, freezing the lubiyeh b'zetha for winter, and enjoying as much of this salad as I can. While you might make big pots of stewed and steam-fried green beans to save for colder days, this salad is the perfect thing to cook right now, when you're looking for something a little lighter and brighter during the last few really hot weeks.

green bean salad with caramelized cherry tomatoes

download a PDF to print
serves 4
active time: 20 minutes
total time: 60 minutes

tomatoes

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F convection.*

  • Coat the tomatoes in olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt.

  • Spread the tomatoes out on a sheet pan,** and make sure they're all facing cut-side up.

  • Roast the tomatoes for 35 to 45 minutes, until the puddles of juice concentrate and become syrupy. Carefully lift them up with a spatula, and remove them to a salad bowl (but do not wash the pan!).

dressing

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 small clove garlic, crushed through a press or finely minced

  • Whisk everything together until very well combined. Set aside.

green beans

16 to 18 ounces green beans, washed, dried, stemmed, and broken into pieces
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 to 6 ounces feta cheese

  • Set the oven to broil. Coat the green beans in olive oil and sprinkle evenly with salt.

  • Spread the green beans out on the sheet pan on top of all the caramelized tomato juices.

  • Broil until blistered, a little charred, and somewhat softened (about 5 to 10 minutes, but it could be even less depending on your broiler).

  • Momentarily toss the green beans in the (now slightly dissolved) tomato juices. I like to just run the spatula down the middle once or twice to coat them a little (but do not scrape up the tomato bits—they're extremely strong, and you just want a light coating), and then empty them into the salad bowl.

  • Crumble the feta into the salad bowl, drizzle with dressing, and gently toss everything together, just until combined (don't over-mix or the tomatoes and feta will dissolve).

* If you don't have a convection oven, they might take a little longer, and you might need to rotate them once halfway through.
** For the cleanest flavor, it's best to use stainless steel instead of aluminum, but I often use aluminum and it turns out totally fine. There's a good Cooks Illustrated article on the subject.

roast green bean salad

lubiyeh b'zetha | green beans steam-fried in olive oil

lubiyeh b'zetha

If you google "steam-frying," you'll find thousands of articles promoting the health benefits of this cooking technique, where you sauté food in some oil, and then cover the pan to let everything steam and fry at the same time. The health benefits are almost always mentioned in the first sentence, and almost always given as the primary (or usually, the only) reason you'd want to try this technique.

It's always struck me as odd that steam frying has become a sort of healthy-life-hack alternative to pan frying, because both techniques tend to use about the same amount of oil, which is to say... not a ton! In fact, the way my family steam fries (by adding a generous amount of olive oil), you might be better off pan frying your food if you're looking to cut calories. The amount of fat that ends up in your food, whether you pan fry or steam fry, all depends on the amount you add.

So then why steam-fry at all? Because it's another delicious way of cooking vegetables! It's a tried-and-true cooking method found in many different cuisines, and it results in a completely different taste and texture than straight up frying. As an added bonus, it's way easier because you don't have to work in batches to make sure everything gets perfectly crispy, because uniform crispiness is not the goal here.

lubiyeh b'zetha
lubiyeh b'zetha
lubiyeh b'zetha
lubiyeh b'zetha

In any case, steam frying is the way my family makes lubiyeh b'zetha, which literally translates to "green beans in oil." As you might expect from the name, the oil is a key ingredient here, and one that you shouldn't skimp on, unless you need to for dietary reasons. But if you need to justify 1/4 cup of oil to yourself, just imagine the olive oil and diced tomatoes as the same kind of thing as an oil and vinegar salad dressing. In the end, you don't get too much with each perfectly-dressed bite.

Here, the green beans don't get the same caramelized flavor they would have if you were to pan fry and blister them. Instead, they have a more gently fried flavor (just the faintest hint of caramelization), and they have a beautifully soft al dente texture. Feel free to steam them a little longer than the recipe suggests to make these truly granny-style green beans, or stick with the recipe for beans that have just enough bite.

lubiyeh b'zetha
lubiyeh b'zetha

lubiyeh b'zetha | green beans steam-fried in olive oil

active time: 15 minutes
total time: 30 minutes
serves 8
download a PDF to print

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

  • 6 cloves garlic, coarsely cupped

  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, stemmed and broken into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces *

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

  1. Heat a large, steep-sided sauté pan or medium dutch oven over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, followed by the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until they soften a little and turn very light golden (not brown).

  2. Add the green beans and stir for about 1 minute over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes or so (re-cover every time you give it a stir).

  3. Add the black pepper and salt, and stir for about 30 seconds.

  4. Add the diced tomatoes, lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the green beans are your preferred doneness.

* Feel free to substitute frozen, but be sure to taste them as you go after the first few minutes, because the cook time will most likely be shorter. You'll also want to cook them uncovered for an extra 1 or 2 minutes.

lubiyeh b'zetha