All About Green Beans
Storing: Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for five to seven days. Some suggest leaving the bag open for air circulation to prevent growth of mold, or inserting a paper towel in the bag if you will not use them within a day or two. However, they will taste best if used as soon as possible after picking. When I peruse the contents of my share, I usually prioritize green beans as an item I'll use soonest in the week. Sometimes I blanch them right away for use in a salad the next day.
Preparing: Rinse beans under cold water and remove the stem end by snapping it off or using a paring knife. I like to leave on the pretty tapered tips on the opposite end. The round beans, such as those we've been picking at Lexfarm for the last two weeks, should be cooked quickly. Many of this week's recipe links involve boiling for 2-4 minutes in salted water and then immersing in ice water to cool. The ice water stops further cooking, preserving taste, texture, and, presumably, nutrients. You may also see flat beans, such as Romano, which take well to longer stewing and can then be served cold or warm. Roasting and pickling are two other simple ways to prepare delicious green beans.
Freezing: Try to plan ahead for freezing, using the freshest beans, rather than those that have sat in your fridge going unused for a while. Rinse in cold water, trim the stem ends, and cut them into the length you'd like for subsequent uses. Blanch in salted boiling water for 3 minutes, then transfer with slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water, adding ice as needed to cool the beans and quickly stop the cooking. Drain the water and pat dry with a dish towel. Freeze in Ziploc bags, removing as much air as possible. Arranging the beans in a flat layer will help them freeze quickly. Use within 3-6 months with a regular freezer. They will last longer in non-self-defrosting freezers, because the freeze-thaw cycles of self-defrosting freezers contribute to freezer burn and cause taste and nutrients to deteriorate quickly.
You could also freeze prepared soups, stews, or curries, however, avoid freezing soups with chunks of potatoes because the potatoes will disintegrate upon defrosting.
Well-Cooked Green Beans
I know about the health benefits in lightly steaming your veggies to maintain a crisp texture, vitamins, recognizable color and shape, but this dish has become a solid favorite in the house. If you are looking for a veggie dish that evokes enthusiastic “Yes – finally!” exclamations try this. I’ve made this dish about five times and never once regretted sacrificing healthy-crunchy for smothered bean bliss.
The recipe is not an original. I heard it on the radio in the car. Actually, I heard some of it in the car. Here is the link to the original recipe from The Splendid Table. What follows is my adaptation. Also, plan ahead for when Italian flat beans become available later in season. You have to try it again and again!
- 1 pound fresh green beans, tipped and tailed
- 4 tablespoons olive oil (you will save 2 tablespoons to be added towards the end of the cooking)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large fresh tomato, halved or 2 medium-sized ones (Remove seeds if there is a tomato seed aversion in your home as there is in mine. Don’t worry about skin – read on.)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- A pinch or two of chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon fresh fennel greens or dill, chopped up
- Put 2 tablespoons of oil with onions in a skillet with a tight-fitting cover, and set it over medium heat. Cook onions for a few minutes. Add the green beans and about ¼ cup water. Fold in onions and beans. Put tomato halves on top skin side up. Don’t stir.
- Lower the heat, cover the beans and let them cook, without stirring, for about 40 minutes. YES – walk away and do something fun if it hurts too much to leave a bean for that long. You need to have the temp low enough to not burn the beans. After 40 min, it really doesn’t matter if they cook for another 10 or 15 minutes more, so no worries! If you get really good at this, you can wait for the beans on the bottom to gently brown.
- When the beans are soft, limp and lifeless, slide off the heat, lift the lid and remove the tomato skins. Stir gently, making an effort to keep some beans in a recognizable shape. It is unlikely, but if there’s a noticeable amount of liquid in the skillet, return beans to heat, turn the heat up and, move the beans around gently with a spatula until the liquid evaporates off. You want soft, barely-holding-together green beans. The tomato bits should be mixed in.
- Turn off the heat. Salt and pepper the beans, sprinkle them with the pepper flakes and chopped fennel or dill, drizzle another 2 tablespoons of your best olive oil on top, fold it all in one more time, and serve.
Tina Jaillet is a Lexington resident and LexFarm founding member. She has boundless interests yet sharing foods with loved ones is a daily pursuit. Tina volunteers for the LexFarm educational committee.
More Ideas for Green Beans
Provençal Vegetable Soup includes a variety of vegetables. In addition to green beans, it calls for farm-fresh zucchini, carrots, and onions.
For something a little different, try green bean and almond soup On a hot day, try it chilled.
A bit retro, but always a favorite, is three-bean salad. Substitute kidney beans to this version to make it more classic, or add them for a four-bean salad. If you have the time, soak and cook dried beans for improved taste and texture. The beans will also absorb the vinaigrette better if dressed while warm.
If you didn't try this with your snap peas, you will love green beans with sesame vinaigrette.
Toss green beans with shell beans and cherry tomatoes and a light mustard vinaigrette.
Capture the essence of summer in a salad of green beans and cherry tomatoes tossed with pesto.
This Provençal potato salad is a twist on a Salad Niçoise.
Green beans keep company with beets, carrots, and potatoes in this Russian-style salad.
Stir-fry with tofu and cashews.
Stir-fry green beans with leeks and dill.
Stew them in their own juices, Spanish style.
Blanch then sauté them with lemon and garlic.