Like many other Americans, I’ve been planning my Thanksgiving menu this week. Let’s be honest, Thanksgiving is a HEAVY holiday. I love Thanksgiving food, but I’m not a fan of that heavy, sick-to-your-stomach feeling that comes from eating too much. I was shocked to learn that the average Thanksgiving dinner is around 3,000 calories. Really! And that doesn’t include breakfast or lunch—we’re talking just the holiday meal itself! Holy moly.
Over the past few years, I’ve worked to lighten up my Thanksgiving menu without sacrificing on flavor. My husband’s maternal family is Sephardic Jewish from Israel, which means we’ve been gifted with some fabulous, healthy family recipes from the Middle East and Mediterranean. When Thanksgiving rolls around, I like to add some of these dishes to the mix to lighten things up. To be fair, some holiday foods are best made without worrying about the fat– like desserts, for example. But lightening up just a few side dishes can put a big dent into the turkey day calorie count.
Take green beans, for example. A typical Thanksgiving side dish is Green Bean Casserole. Green beans swim in butter and cream sauce, then they’re topped with deep-fried onions and baked into a casserole. Whoa. Heavy with a capital H! Why not consider swapping this caloric side dish for something lighter, and in my opinion even more flavorful, like our family recipe for Green Bean Tomato Sauté? This green bean dish is super simple to make and really, really tasty. It’s also a great recipe to make ahead, which can cut down on your holiday prep time; the green beans taste even better after marinating overnight in the fridge.
This dish is vegetarian, vegan, pareve, gluten free, affordable, and easy to throw together. It’s a great option for a quick weekday meatless meal, too! My husband and I sometimes eat this as a light dinner with some French bread or sourdough for dipping in the tomato sauce. Filling, flavorful, satisfying, and further proof that food doesn’t need to be swimming in fat to be delicious! Enjoy.
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- 2 lbs green beans, trimmed (young, small beans are best)
- 1 sweet onion (Mayan or Vidalia), peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped or 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp fresh minced oregano (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt and pepper
- If using young small green beans, you can keep them whole without trimming if you like. For larger green beans, chop them into 1 1/2 - 2 inch pieces.
- Heat the oil in a wide sauté pan over medium. Sauté the diced onions for 5 minutes till softened. Add the minced garlic and continue to sauté for another 2 minutes till fragrant.
- Add the green beans to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and oregano to the pan. Stir till all ingredients are blended.
- Add hot water to the pan till the green beans are about 80% covered. Add sugar to the pan, and season with salt and pepper to taste. I usually add about 1 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper.
- Stir all ingredients and bring to a slow boil for 2 minutes.
- Cover the pan and reduce heat to low. Let the green beans cook for 10-50 minutes, depending on how soft you like the green beans. If using small young beans, you will only need about 10-15 minutes of cooking to make them tender, then uncover the pot and let the sauce simmer and reduce a bit before serving. For larger beans, 20 minutes will produce a tender-crisp "al dente" texture; 50 minutes will make them very soft. I like to cook them for about 30 minutes, so they're tender but not mushy.
- Serve the green beans warm as a side dish, or at room temperature (which can be nice during the summer months). The tomato sauce is perfect for dipping fresh bread.
- It's the kind of dish that improves with time, so if you want to cook the green beans a day ahead and let them marinate overnight in the fridge, they will taste even better the next day!