Monday, August 18, 2014

Know Any Good Green Bean Jokes?

Green Beans, or string beans as they are usually called, must be done [boiled] till very tender -- it takes nearly an hour and a half.”

Sarah Josepha Hale, 'The Good Housekeeper' (1839)

Neither do I. And I couldn't think of any cute, catchy titles for this post, either, even after I googled green bean jokes and green bean quips and green bean quotes and a couple more things along those lines. But I do know some good green bean recipes!

I grew up eating canned green beans, just plain from the can. Heated, of course, but plain. Not at all fancy or exciting, but not bad, either. Just sort of there. And that’s pretty much how I’ve always thought about canned green beans. Fresh green beans are better, though. There’s more scope, more things you can do to them to fancy them up while retaining the green beaniness. Here are a few of my favorite ways to fix them.

First, of course, is green beans with bacon or ham. Southern Style cooks the beans to death – at least one or two hours, maybe more – with a ham hock and some extra lard or butter or something like that. The idea is that the beans absorb all that delicious flavor. Maybe they do, but they also end up way too mushy for my taste. I prefer the beans fully cooked – tender, but not tender-crisp and not mushy. And with a few slices of bacon or some ham. I don’t know that there’s a name for beans cooked this way. Maybe Northern Style Green Beans? You can add some potatoes to either version and kill two sides with one dish, or even have just the beans and potatoes for supper.

Something that I just learned about a couple of years ago is fried green beans. The recipe I’ve been using calls for frying them on top of the stove, but I just found a recipe for ROASTED GREEN BEANS, and I’m going to give you that recipe instead, just because it’s easier. And cheaper and healthier because it uses less fat. But still good.

I belonged to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) when I lived in California, and we used to get lots of green beans. I don’t remember where I got the tomatoes, but I made GREEN BEANS HELLENIKA a lot with the CSA beans. I’d still make it today if I had lots of green beans and tomatoes, because it’s really good. Since I have to buy them, though, and they’re both pricey at the Farmers Market, I’d rather eat my green beans and tomatoes separately, so I can concentrate on how good they are individually. If you have a garden and lots of beans and tomatoes, give this a try.

I always thought that succotash was corn and lima beans, and since I don’t like lima beans, I didn’t like succotash. Turns out that it can be made with green beans instead of or in addition to the lima beans. Like in this recipe for GREEN BEAN SUCCOTASH. The Joy of Cooking is a classic cookbook. Pick one up if you happen to run across one. Mine is one I inherited from my grandfather’s sister. I like old cookbooks.

One final dish that combines fresh green beans with another summer vegetable, GREEN BEANS WITH ZUCCHINI. An added bonus is that the cost of the green beans offset by the much cheaper, at least this time of year, zucchini.

I just looked through my oldest cookbooks – going back as far as 1815! – and most of them said to cook the beans to death, though that may have been because the varieties of beans that they had back then weren’t as tender as the ones we have today and they had to be cooked longer. Most of them called for cooking the beans for an hour or more, draining them, then adding salt and pepper, butter, and cream. Some of the recipes called for adding a bit of flour to make a thin white sauce, but most of them just called for cream. I think I’ll give it a try the next time I have some fresh green beans.

What’s your favorite way to cook green beans?

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