I see green vegetables as a blank canvas, just waiting to be decorated. Vegetables on their own can be somewhat boring… steamed, sauteed, grilled… they’re nice, but they lack a “wow” factor unless they have a dressing, sauce, or some other sort of embellishment. I find green beans to be particularly yawn-inducing. Lately, I’ve challenged myself to come up with some more exciting ways to serve them. I usually make them Middle Eastern-style with tomatoes, and more recently discovered they go really well with caponata. With Thanksgiving around the corner and those heavy green bean casseroles with canned soup on many menus (sorry, I’m not a fan), I decided to develop something lighter and more flavorful… something unexpected. This recipe is the result – Green Beans with Balsamic Date Reduction, Feta and Pine Nuts. It’s a long-winded title for a really simple and fabulously festive side dish.
Young, thin green beans are quick-sauteed with olive oil, salt and pepper. If you’re using larger beans, feel free to steam them- note about that in the recipe below. Top them with a simple reduction made from soaked dates and balsamic vinegar, which creates a gorgeous plum-colored sweet and tart sauce. Sprinkle the whole thing with salty feta – I like the Israeli block feta sold in many kosher/Middle Eastern markets – and toasted pine nuts. If you have nut allergies (or you’re watching your budget), feel free to substitute toasted sunflower seeds.
Serve warm or at room temperature, depending on your preference. It’s a surprising and delicious symphony of flavors. If you don’t mind serving dairy with meat, or you’re having a vegetarian holiday meal, I think this would make an excellent Thanksgivukkah side dish.
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- 1 lb young, thin green beans (if using larger beans, see note at the end of the recipe)
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup pitted dates
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/4 cup toasted pinenuts (or sub toasted sunflower seeds)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper
You will also need
- Small saucepan, large nonstick skillet, blender
- Soak dates in warm water for about 10 minutes to soften. In a blender, combine the dates, water, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt. Blend until smooth.
- In a small saucepot, bring the mixture to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer on low until sauce is reduced and thickened, stirring frequently. It should be thick, but still easy to drizzle.
- In a mixing bowl, toss the green beans with the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Pour the olive oil-coated seasoned green beans into the skillet and sauté for 6-8 minutes, or until tender-crisp.
- Toss beans with half of the feta and half of the pine nuts, then transfer to your serving dish. Drizzle with reduction and top with remaining feta and pine nuts.
- Note: make sure you use young, thin green beans, which cook faster and produce tastier results. If you only have larger green beans on hand, steam them till tender and season with salt and pepper, toss them with feta and pine nuts, then drizzle with sauce (skip the sauté step).