Aside from the fact that I had a giant pile of dirty dishes stacked in the sink by the end of the day, it actually went off without a hitch. The key is to keep it simple, do as much as possible ahead of time… and to be willing to admit when it makes more sense to serve something store-bought than make it yourself. :)
For lunch, I quickly popped down to my favourite Greek bakery to pick up some flaky spinach and cheese pies, which I served with a chilled asparagus soup and a simple green salad tossed in roasted hazelnut dressing. To finish, a dessert of blackberry-filled aebelskivers I’d made earlier that morning, lightly dusted with icing sugar. With a pitcher of minted lemonade to round out the meal, no one was any wiser that I’d spent less than an hour on preparations.
As soon as we finished saying our goodbyes to the lunch crowd, I threw a leg of lamb into a simple lemon-and-herb marinade and prepared these super-easy Greek-inspired beans. That left me with plenty of time to tidy up the kitchen and set up the backyard before the next round of visitors arrived, at which point I got The Boy to throw the lamb on the grill, cooked up a simple rice pilaf and distracted our guests with pita, olives and an assortment of dips. See? Easy-peasy.
Now, about these beans. I can’t say enough good things about them… They’re super-simple to make, with a prep time of under ten minutes. They’re served at room temperature, which means you can also pack them for a picnic or in your lunch bag for work. But best of all, they’re meant to be prepared in advance, and actually benefit from being made at least a full day ahead of time so that all the flavours in the dish have time to mingle and mellow. Oh, and did I mention that they also taste really, really good?
BTW, the recipe is inspired by one of my favourite dishes at a local restaurant called Mezes, which specialises in their namesake – small plates of hot or cold foods to be nibbled on with drinks, much like tapas. If you’re ever looking for a bite to eat in Toronto’s Greektown, I highly recommend checking them out… and make sure to order the fasolakia lemonata if you do!
Lemon-Dill Green Beans
1 lb green beans, trimmed
2 tbsp good-quality olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 shallot, finely minced
Salt to taste
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced red pepper
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
In a large pot of boiling salted water, blanch the beans for about 5 minutes, or until just barely tender-crisp. Immediately plunge into an ice-water bath to stop the cooking process, and set aside.
While the beans are cooking, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and shallots in a small bowl until combined. Add salt to taste.
In a large bowl, combine the beans with red onion, red pepper and dill. Pour the prepared dressing in, and toss to coat. Let stand for at least 20 minutes before serving (but preferably overnight) so that the flavours have some time to mellow and combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.