As a regular reader of my column, you have probably noticed my many comments about olive oil and that I usually mention that I use Greek olive oil the majority of the time. Yes, I have a few different types of Greek olive oil, from “extra virgin” first press to a lighter, all-purpose olive oil. But why? And what is the big difference? Olive oil, the “golden liquid” as Homer called it, has been part of Greek history since antiquity. According to many olive oil experts, about 70 percent of olive oil labeled “extra-virgin olive oil” (EVOO) sold in U.S. supermarkets is mixed with other oils of inferior quality, such as canola, sunflower, soy and corn oils. I personally only buy 100 percent Greek olive oil imported from Crete and I love cooking with it in appetizers, salads, main dishes and even desserts. So “Please Join my Table” as we enjoy dishes made with EVOO.

Green Beans Stewed with Olive Oil and Tomatoes

This is one of my favorite ways to serve green beans, cooked with olive oil and tomatoes. The key ingredient is a good, rich olive oil.

2 pounds green beans, cleaned and trimmed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 medium potatoes, cut in large wedges
A large handful of baby carrots
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4-5 ripe tomatoes, skinned and crushed (substitute 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the green beans, potatoes and carrots to the pot. Dissolve the tomato paste in the water and add along with the crushed tomatoes, parsley and sugar/honey. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer covered for about an hour or until the green beans are tender but not mushy. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the chopped fresh dill and season with salt and pepper to taste. Note: Be sure to check the liquid level while the beans are cooking. You can add a little bit of water if needed.

Olive Oil Pound Cake with Oranges or Grapefruit

1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose, white-wheat flour
3 tablespoons of freshly grated orange or grapefruit zest (You will need 3 large oranges or 2 grapefruits; they zest easier frozen)
1/2 cup granulated organic sugar
1/2 cup raw or Turbinado sugar (or use more granulated sugar)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large free-range eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons of orange or grapefruit juice
1/3 cup buttermilk

SYRUP INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons granulated organic sugar
1/3 cup orange or grapefruit juice

GLAZE INGREDIENTS

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons orange or grapefruit juice
Dash/pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease (I use butter) and flour a 9×5-inch loaf or spring-form pan. In a large bowl, mix/rub the orange/grapefruit zest into the sugars with a wooden spoon, rubbing against the side of the bowl. This helps release the fruit’s essence. Add the oil and whisk until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time and whisk again. Scrape down the bowl and set aside. In a second bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom and salt. In a third bowl, combine the 2 tablespoons of orange/grapefruit juice and the buttermilk. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the oil-and-sugar mixture, ending with flour. Spread the batter in the pan and tap the pan a few times to make sure there are no air bubbles. Bake for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

SYRUP DIRECTIONS: Combine 2 tablespoons of sugar with 1/3 cup orange/grapefruit juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan before inverting it onto a rack. Carefully poke holes in the cake with a toothpick or fork. Spoon or brush the syrup over the cake. Let cool completely.

GLAZE DIRECTIONS: Combine the confectioners’ sugar, orange/grapefruit juice, and pinch of salt in a bowl, whisking until smooth. Place cake on a platter or cake plate; pour the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drizzle down the sides. Makes 1 loaf.

In a hurry? Omit the flour, baking powder and baking soda and instead add 1 box of yellow cake mix and increase the eggs to 3. Enjoy!

Slow-Cooked Green Beans with Mixed Vegetables and Olive Oil

The longer and slower you simmer your beans, the more tender and delicious they’ll be. Serve over garlic mashed potatoes for an amazing, hearty, healthy dinner or in a crusty fresh bread bowl for a fun, delicious twist.

2 pounds green beans, cleaned and trimmed or frozen and defrosted
1 box frozen okra
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large onions, quartered and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 medium potatoes, cut into wedges
A large handful of baby carrots (optional; my husband doesn’t like cooked carrots so I omit them for him)
4 stalks celery, cut into pieces
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 ripe tomatoes, skinned and crushed (or substitute 1 and 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes. Muir Glen is my favorite; they’re organic and fire roasted)
1 1/2 cups warm water or chicken broth
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup dill, chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. In a large, oven-safe Dutch oven or pot, heat the 1/2 cup olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the green beans, potatoes and carrots to the pot. Dissolve the tomato paste in the water/broth and add, along with the crushed tomatoes, okra, parsley and sugar. Place in the oven and bake covered until it starts to simmer. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake until almost done, 30-45 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the chopped fresh dill and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Note: Be sure to check the liquid level while the beans are cooking. You can add a little bit of water if needed.

Karen Boughton
Author: Karen BoughtonEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
I grew up in a big, Greek, cooking family. I married my high school sweetheart and soon had three daughters. My husband and I worked in the family’s Greek restaurant, “Zorba’s,” for several years before moving to Baton Rouge and eventually Corpus Christi. There I taught microwave cooking classes for Amana.in studio and on television for three years before moving to Kingwood in the late '80s. I reached out to learn more about regional and international foods, spending 16 years in management in private athletic/dining/country clubs for ClubCorp, where I embraced health and cooking. In 2008 I joined the Tribune Newspapers as food editor, the same time that I became a nutrition advisor and USANA Health Sciences Associate. These two passions have given me better health and the freedom to live life my way.