The Thanksgiving menu when I was growing up was pretty much fixed. The two questions were:
Waldorf salad or not? (Yes, if there were guests.) and
What about a green vegetable?
My schoolteacher mother didn't study nutrition in college, but there were small leaflet-like books put out during the Depression to educate citizens on proper nutrition for their children, and my mother dutifully absorbed them, or so she said. Her views were pretty reasonable and accurate given what we now know about such things, her mantra being A Balanced Meal. Thanksgiving did not meet her criteria for ABM, and mostly she didn't try to impose on the menu. But no mashed potatoes. (There's enough starch there," meaning sweet potatoes were a starch and not a yellow vegetable, dressing was certainly a starch, and then the brown 'n serve rolls and blackberry jam, the cranberry sauce and the pumpkin pie.) And there needed to be a green vegetable on the plate. Nothing exciting ever appeared. Canned peas or green beans. Frozen broccoli. Yawn.
Things improved several years after I married and had kids. For a long time, there was a spinach casserole that, mirabile dictu, came from a hospital cafeteria. (Thank you, Shriners!) Hard-cooked egg, a sharp cheese sauce and croutons over a layer of cooked spinach were the answer. And then in the Pollack years, other things came into play. Roasted brussels sprouts had a good run, especially with a little balsamic sprinkled over as they came out of the oven. And then there was this that made a picky 6-year-old diva beg for more. I think it was probably the tarragon.
There are plenty of recipes for similar things all over the internet, most of them more overtly Italian than this. I'm thinking whoever came up with this one, an old New York Times recipe that more or less pre-dates the internet, and probably is from Jack Bishop. Tarragon, unusual in Italian cooking, is mostly found around Siena, which is where the onetime picky eater spent a semester of college and really learned about serious eating.
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 c. chopped or diced canned tomatoes with liquid
1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed (I also break them up)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried tarragon (or 1 Tbs. fresh, added at the end of the cooking)
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large saute pan or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. If it browns a little because you forget to stir, that's okay. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the juices thicken a little, about another 5 minutes.
Add the green beans, salt and a little pepper to the skiller. Crumble the tarragon between your fingers or in the palm of your hand over the pan and add it all. Give the mixture a good stir, drop the heat to medium-low and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender but still a little resistant to the bite, about 30-35 minutes. You may go longer if you desire. If you're using the fresh tarragon, add it now, and taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper.
Serves 4, perhaps.