Fresh beans are a simple snack that comes to life with a little creativity
RENEE KOHLMAN POSTMEDIA NEWS
Beans, like most vegetables when they’re just picked and super fresh, don’t really need much more than a quick simmer in the saucepan or a turn in a hot skillet to take off some of the crunch. For all that is good and holy, do not boil your beans to the point where they lose their colour and their snap. Not only do the nutrients leak out into the water but so does all of that flavour and texture. A few minutes in simmering water is really all fresh beans require. They should be dark emerald green and bend a little. After they’re drained, I like to swirl in some butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Beans, butter, and dill are best friends, so I’m always chucking in a few tablespoons of the fresh stuff if I have it around. Here are two recipes that allow you to get creative yellow!) when cooking green (or beans: Green Beans with Browned Butter and Sage Browned butter makes everything better, including green beans. I could have just stirred the beans in the butter and that would have been fine, but I took it one step further and added sliced almonds to the skillet, as well as fresh sage leaves. The smell radiating from the stove is pretty terrific. Everything gets tossed together, and that’s it really. You’ll want to watch the skillet once the almonds join the party, as they can go from golden brown to burnt very quickly. I like this recipe because it works really well with both frozen and fresh green beans. Fresh is optimal, of course, but in the dead of winter when only frozen are available, this is a tasty way to get your green bean fix. 1 lb green beans, fresh or frozen 3 tbsp unsalted butter 1/2 cup sliced almonds 12 medium sage leaves Salt and pepper 1. If you’re using fresh green beans, trim the ends. If you’re using frozen, don’t bother thawing. Place the beans in a large saucepan along with one-and-a-half cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the beans have come to a boil, uncover, and cook them until they’re forktender but still a little crisp, about 1–2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cool running water for one minute. It’s okay if they’re still warm. They don’t have to be completely cooled down. 2. Place a large non-stick skillet butter. over medium heat. Add the Once you see some brown bits starting to form and the butter is getting foamy, add the almonds and cook, stirring constantly, for one minute, until they’re beginning to turn golden. Be careful not to burn the almonds. If they get too dark, turn the heat down. Stir in the sage leaves (you’ll hear an excellent hissing sound) and cook, stirring constantly for one minute, until they’re crisp. 3. Add the cooked green beans to the skillet, gently toss to marry everything together, and heat the beans through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 4-6 servings. Serve immediately. Roasted Green Beans with Chili Bread Crumbs and Mozzarella I know sometimes green beans can be a tough sell, especially to selective eaters. That’s where melty cheese comes to the rescue. These beans have delectable crispy bits and heaps of flavour from the garlic and bread crumbs. But the cheese — oh, the cheese — really makes you want to pick them up and eat them with your hands. Totally guilty of it, myself. Sometimes playing with your food is the only way to go, especially if it means more vegetables get eaten. I love eating these green beans in the summer when they’re bursting with fantastic flavour. Forks are optional. Napkins are essential. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 tsp chili powder 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper 1 lb fresh green beans, trimmed 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. 2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, garlic, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add the beans and toss until they’re evenly coated. 3. Spread the beans (be sure to scrape all of the oil out of the bowl, too) onto a rimmed baking sheet (no parchment paper) in a single layer. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, add the bread crumbs, and stir to combine. Return the baking sheet to the oven and roast for another five minutes. Remove from the oven and stir (we don’t want the bread crumbs to burn). Return to the oven until the bread crumbs are a deep golden brown and the beans have some blistered spots, about 3–4 minutes. Remove the beans from the oven and sprinkle on the mozzarella. 4. Preheat the broiler. Put the baking sheet under the broiler and keep it there until the cheese is melted and browned, about 2–3 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes four servings. (Recipes are from Vegetables: A Love Story, by Renee Kohlman.) Renée Kohlman has been cooking and baking professionally for over 20 years.