Most of us think of vegetables as just an accompaniment to meat loaf, a broiled steak, grilled fish or roast chicken. But green beans – cheap and bountiful this time of year in both supermarkets and at farmer’s markets – can be the star of the meal.
Green beans, also called string beans or snap beans, are versatile and colorful. Yes, colorful. Bean pods can actually be green, yellow, purple or red speckled (which might get kids to eat them).
Choose fresh, well colored beans that snap easily when bent. Refrigerate green beans in a plastic bag and use within one week of purchase. Green beans are a good source of fiber and vitamin C and are naturally fat-free and sodium-free.
This mild-flavored vegetable is liked by almost everyone and it lends itself to a number of flavor options. They can be boiled, roasted, stir-fried, sautéed or grilled (use a basket so they don’t fall through the grates!). They pair well with almonds, dried cranberries, garlic, lemon, Parmesan cheese and, of course bacon. They lend themselves to almost any flavor profile, from Asian to Mediterranean.
Here are some ideas for using them while in season.
For starters, try them in a salad. This one’s from the Colorado Department of Agriculture:
Warm Green Bean Salad
6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ½-inch wide strips
½ cup shallots, peeled and sliced thin
1 ¼ pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, pulled, no stems
all-purpose seasoning to taste
Cook the green beans in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until they become bright green. Remove from the boiling water; place into a colander and run under cold water to cool completely, then drain excess water. Heat a large sauté pan to medium heat. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until the bacon fat starts to render. Add the shallots and cook until the bacon starts to caramelize and becomes golden brown. Add the green beans and sauté until tender and hot, approximately 4-5 minutes. Add the vinegar and cider and deglaze the pan. Stir the green beans until they start to coat with the cider/vinegar reduction. Turn off the heat and season to taste. Remove from the pan and serve warm.
A site called reallsimple.com has 11 recipes for ways to make green beans special. This one might remind you of that ubiquitous holiday casserole some love …and some don’t. This recipe is much fresher!
Green Beans with Mushrooms and Crispy Onion Rings
½ small red onion, cut into thin rings and separated
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
kosher salt and black pepper
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced
1 cup 1 percent milk
1 pound frozen (thawed) or blanched green beans
In a bowl, toss the onion with 1 tablespoon of the flour and ¼ teaspoon salt. Heat 1½ tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onion, stirring, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to a paper towel on a plate.
Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms, stirring, until tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of flour over the mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the milk and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken, 1 to 2 minutes. Add green beans and cook until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes. Top with the onions.
AllRecipes.com also offers a glut of green bean treats, including this one:
Crispy Green Bean Fries
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
½ cup all=purpose flour
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 cups vegetable oil, or as needed
Salt to taste
Bring a pot of water to a boil; cook beans in boiling water until bright green, about 2 minutes. Immediately transfer green beans to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain and dry beans with paper towels.
Heat oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 350 degrees F.
Pour flour into a bowl. Whisk egg in a separate bowl. Pour bread crumbs into a third bowl.
Coat green beans with flour; transfer to beaten egg and coat evenly. Press coated green beans into bread crumbs.
Fry breaded green beans, working in batches, in the hot oil until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer fried beans to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Taste, then salt if necessary.
Hint: They’re great dipped in mayonnaise flavored with a little wasabi or hot sauce.
Those are popular in many restaurants as appetizers. But maybe you love those green beans on the Chinese buffet? Here’s another recipe from allrecipes.com for those.
‘Chinese Buffet’ Green Beans
1 tablespoon oil (peanut or sesame)
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
Heat peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic, and cook until the edges just begin to brown, about 20 seconds. Add the green beans; cook and stir until the green beans begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar, oyster sauce, and soy sauce. Continue cooking and stirring for several minutes until the beans have attained the desired degree of tenderness.
Like we said, green beans can adapt to just about any meal. Find more recipes online and take advantage of the versatility of this deceptively simple vegetable.
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