Source: Reem Assil, Arabiyya

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This recipe appears in Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora by Reem Assil (Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2022) and was demonstrated at the Foodwise Classroom on August 27, 2022.

Green beans bathed in Arab-spiced tomato sauce are a staple of my childhood. The dish is easy to make and works equally well as a mezze or vegetarian main dish.                                                  

Beans are the star of the show: tomato sauce, caramelized in its own natural sugars, makes the beans pop. When I moved to California, I discovered all kinds of beans, and I love to mix things up with seasonal varietals. In summer, I look for the reddest, sweetest Roma tomatoes, and in winter, canned whole tomatoes do nicely. A hit of lemon and douse of olive oil at the end ties this beautiful dish together.           

My mom liked to stew canned tomatoes down, until most of the water had evaporated and a thick sweet paste clung to the beans. If using canned tomatoes, skip the oven roasting and add them directly to the caramelized onion-garlic mixture.

I like my sauce blended and strained, but you can keep it chunky, with all the goods, if you like.

Serves 4-6


5 cups ripe Roma tomatoes (about 12 tomatoes), sliced lengthwise
1 serrano chile, stems, seeds, and veins removed (optional)
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 cups medium-dice yellow onions (about 2 onions)
Kosher salt as needed
2 tablespoons minced garlic (about 8 cloves)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground, or 1⁄2 teaspoon ground
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola or sunflower
1 pound green beans, trimmed and halved lengthwise at a diagonal (about 4 cups)
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
Maldon salt (optional) for garnish
TIP: When in season, substitute yellow wax beans for half the green beans to create a colorful effect.


Preheat the oven to 450°F.

On a sheet tray, rub the tomatoes and chile with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Roast in the oven until the skins are black and blistered, 50 to 55 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heavy saucepan, sauté the onions in the remaining 1⁄3 cup of olive oil along with a generous pinch of salt on medium-low heat, until the onions are lightly caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. As the onions darken, stir to keep from burning.

Once the garlic is fragrant and soft, add the coriander, charred tomatoes and chile, and another pinch of salt. If the tomatoes are dry, add enough water to barely cover (about 1 cup). 

Raise the heat to bring the mixture to a simmer, then lower the heat to maintain the simmer.  Cook, uncovered, for 25 to 35 minutes or until the tomatoes break down completely.  I prefer a smooth sauce without fragments of tomato or pepper skins, so I run mine through a high-powered blender or strain it, but that’s optional.

In a medium pan over medium-low heat, warm the neutral oil.  When the oil shimmers, add the beans, another pinch of salt, and the pepper and cook for 7 to 10 minutes or until the beans are softened.  Then add the tomato sauce and lemon juice and mix thoroughly. 

To serve, transfer the beans to a serving plate.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with Maldon salt and pepper.

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