There is a traditional Greek food category called "Ladera". The word derives from the word for oil "ladi" - λάδι. It includes various recipes, mainly vegetables, in which oil is essential the cooking liquid. It is what provides moisture to the cooking method, either stove or oven, and what brings everything together. I cannot stress enough the importance of leaving any "ladero" to stand at least 4 hours at room T before serving at that temperature, although to some people including myself they actually taste better after a night in the fridge, and even cold! In the era of unavoidable seasonality "Ladera" would have been part of a summer menu.
Flat beans are one of these vegetables, and I bumped into some fresh, vibrant, strong ones this morning. When I find such fresh produce I can't just pass it by. So I decided to cook a slightly more exotic but still simple "ladero" to honour them.
You will need a big non-stick pan with a lid in order to properly cook them to retain most of their crunch after cooking. Quantities given are for about 500 gr of flat beans, ends trimmed.
Heat over medium heat as much olive oil in the pan as you need to cover generously the surface and 0,5 cm more in height. Add:
Onion, 1 large pc, peeled, quartered and cut in not too thin strips
Ginger, peeled, and cut in thin strips
Fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp
Stir gently every now and then for 10 minutes until the onions and ginger start to soften and caramelise. Then add the beans and:
Tomatoes, 2 large pcs, flesh grated, discard the skin
Red Chilli, 1 pc cut in not too thin strips
Sugar, at least 1/2 tsp - adjust on final tasting
The beans should be spread out nicely, slightly overlapping but not too crowded. Reduce heat slightly and cover with the lid. Cook for about 20 minutes, checking half way through that the liquid from the tomatoes has not completely evaporated. Add 1 tbsp of water if necessary. You want the beans to essentially half cook from the oil in the pan and half steam from the moisture under the lid. Check they are cooked through, by easily piercing a fork but keep them crunchy, do not overcook them! Take off the heat and add:
Parsley, thinly cut
Allow it to sit for at least 4 hrs before serving.
Sprinkle some feta or other white cheese on top, or serve with some yoghurt on the side.