Vegetable fans, lovers of the color green, vegetarians who miss meat, nut allergy sufferers, and people who think throwing crispy bits of tortilla on food is a good way to have a good time: Y’all are going to love me today. I’m going to feel the love. The love you will have for me is going to seep through my computer screen and pool, lovingly, in a heart shape right here on this desk.
That’s because I’m going to share with you the easiest, meatiest, nuttiest recipe you’ll ever see that doesn’t involve meat or nuts. The key is, I admit, an ingredient you might have to look a little bit for – Castelvetrano or Cerignola green olives that are super plump and chewy with a very mild, distinctly nutty, buttery flavor. They are usually the size of quarters and taste, basically, like they’re masquerading as avocadoes, but with satisfying chew.
When you see these olives, the most obvious thing to do is to hoard a bunch of them and start snacking, but here, you take a pile of them, chop them up and season them with a little vinegar, and you have a wonderfully chewy, rich “salsa” for nutty roasted green beans. Throw some crisp-fried tortilla bits on top for another dimension of crunch and nuttiness, and you’ll want to come over and give me a hug.
Roasted green beans with chunky olive salsa and tortilla crisps
Asparagus also works well in this recipe instead of the green beans. Just make sure you snap off the tough ends and peel the stems if they’re tough. And you can skip making the tortilla crisps and use a few crumbled up tortilla chips instead, though it won’t be as crunchy. What you can’t substitute, though, is any old olives for the kinds I recommend here – the key to the dish is the mild, avocado-like flavor and meaty chew of Castelvetrano or green Cerignola olives. If you can’t find them, ask a store clerk if (s)he might know another similar variety.
Serves 4-6 as a side
2 corn tortillas (or crumble up a few tortilla chips, and skip most of the oil below)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided (don’t worry, you’ll strain out most of it)
1 pound green beans, stem ends snapped off
¼ pound Castelvetrano or green Cerignola olives
1½ tablespoons finely chopped onion
1½ tablespoons white wine vinegar (use nice, mellow stuff, or use less)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Do a little prep: Preheat your oven to 450°F. Stack the tortillas and cut them into ¼-inch strips. Turn them, and cut the strips into ¼-inch squares. Marvel at how straight you got them, and line a small bowl with a paper towel folded in half.
Make tortilla crisps: Heat 5 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a small saucepan. When the oil is hot enough to look “wavy,” drop a piece of tortilla in it. If it sizzles immediately, add the rest of the tortillas and fry, stirring gently, until they’re crisp and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Strain them out and let them drain in the paper towel-lined bowl and toss with a little salt. Carefully pour hot oil into a heatproof bowl.
Infuse the vinegar: Mix together the vinegar and onion in a small mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. This mellows out the onion and infuses the vinegar.
Prep olives: Pit the olives by gently smushing them with the bottom of a pot. If they don’t split open, score them lengthwise in two places and try again. (Angle the pot away from you so they don’t squirt on your clothes.) Peel the olive flesh away from the pits with your fingers and ditch the pits. Chop the olives to BB size or so, and combine with the onion mixture.
Roast green beans: Toss beans with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. If there’s not quite enough to give them a light, even sheen, add a little more from the tortilla oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, spread out in one layer on a baking sheet, and roast in oven until tender and browned in spots, about 12-14 minutes.
Make vinaigrette: Stir a tablespoon of the tortilla oil to the olive-onion mixture. Taste, and add more of the oil or vinegar if necessary to give you a bright but balanced sauce. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
Assemble: When the beans are done, place them on a platter and top generously with the olive vinaigrette, leaving a little in a bowl to pass at the table. Serve hot or at room temperature. Scatter the tortilla crisps on just before serving.