Green beans epitomize the dueling energies of summer.
On one hand summer is the always bustling, parade of people visiting, things to do outside every night hustle. Lots of hands asking “what can I do,” sliding over each bean, snapping the stem end away making dinner prep faster with so many people around the table.
For these nights I’m drawn to a fast, high heat cooking method for beans—usually on the grill or in a smoking hot frying pan. The goal here is to quickly blister the skin leaving a good amount of char on the skin while maintaining a bit of snap when bitten.
On the other there are the ambling days. The days where I find myself on a long walk and then retiring to an afternoon nap avoiding the heat of the afternoon—cooled by the soft cotton of an old quilt on an inviting bed. Only to rise, stretch and glance through the garden for what is for dinner. I’ll stand alone by the kitchen sink pulling each bean from the harvesting basket, snip the ends away, and run them and my hands under the cool tap.
For nights like this I turn to a relatively slower braise of beans. Beans the color of an army tent is often given the bad reputation of being over-cooked. But that longer cook replaces the crisp crunch of the bean with a tender and yielding sweetness.
Neither is right; they are truly just different. It should be noted here that green beans are also perfectly at home being blanched (submerged in boiling hot water for a couple of minutes and then immediately cooled in water to stop the cooking). Blanching is a great way to cook beans for future use, and, incidentally, would have fit perfectly in this summertime analogy if I had a pool.
It is impossible to know the tenderness of the bean without biting into each one, a technique under appreciated by my dinner guests. In its stead, two key indicators of toughness are lumpy pods and extreme bendy-ness when cleaned. The bumpier the pod the larger the internal seeds are. At this point, I usually just leave them on the plant and eat the beans inside when they are fully plump, but not dried, as I would a fresh shelling bean. Extreme bend in the bean can either mean that the plant is developing the fibrousness to protect the internal seeds or that they are old and have been stored out of the cold for too long. These beans are still good but better suited to the slower cooking methods to break down that fiber and dismantle the expectation of a snappy squeak when chewed.
And while I’ve been referencing only green beans but purple and yellow beans work perfectly well in both settings. The purple beans will turn a less than lovely color of grey green when cooked. To keep the color I often just toss the cooked green beans with the raw purple beans while the former is still hot. The residual heat carries over to the purple beans taking off the raw edge but not the color. It takes a couple of attempts to get the timing down.
If you take to grilling green beans, I recommend using a roasting rack on the grill with the grates running perpendicular to the rack rungs to make a mesh through which the beans cannot fall.
- 2 lbs green beans
- 2 oranges, zest and juice
- 1 T apple cider vinegar
- 2 T maple syrup
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- ½ C olive oil
- sunflower seeds (optional)
- Combine the orange juice, zest, vinegar, maple syrup and olive oil with 2 pinches of salt
- In a hot frying pan toast the chili flakes, remove from the heat and add to the orange juice mixture
- Toss the green beans in a healthy glug of olive oil and seasoning with salt
- Grill (or pan roast) the green beans until they have some blistered char and are bright green
- Remove from the grill and immediately dress with the orange vinaigrette and serve either warm or room temperature
One of my very few pet peeves is the misuse of the term aioli. Aioli means garlic mayonnaise. It is commonly used to replace the word mayonnaise for fear of faint-hearted patrons being swayed. If you ever see garlic aioli on a menu, feel free to join my cause and mention it to the establishment. Maybe you will have better luck than I in correcting this foolishness. I almost always make aioli with a good amount of lemon to balance the heat of the garlic, but if you omit the lemon it is still aioli and it is still mayo.
If you can’t be bothered to make the mayonnaise simply substitute 1 C regular mayo for the eggs and oil but keep all else the same.
And it should be noted that this recipe is great with a ton of other veggies added in. Here I piled roasted corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula, and tuna on top of the green beans.
- 1 lb green beans
- 2 eggs
- 2 lemons, zest and juice
- 2 garlic cloves
- ¼ tsp salt
- 10 oz olive oil
- ½ bunch parsley
- In a food processor whiz the eggs, zest, juice, garlic and salt
- Slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a thick mayo develops
- Cook the green beans however you like (grill, pan roast, blanch)
- Serve the green beans with the lemon aioli for dipping
- 1 small onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- ¼ C olive oil
- ½ C white wine
- 1 qt cherry tomatoes
- 2 lbs green beans
- 1 C chicken stock
- ½ C walnuts
- 1 bu parsley
- 1 lemon zest and juice
- Dice the onion and garlic
- In a deep frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and garlic with a big pinch of salt and cook until fragrant and tender (about 7 min)
- Add the wine and reduce
- Add the tomatoes, green beans and stock (substitute water if you rather)
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook until the stock is evaporated and the beans are a very tender, olive green
- Bash the walnut with a rolling pin or frying pan
- Roughly chop the parsley
- Combine the walnuts, parsley and lemon with a big pinch of salt and black pepper
- Top the green beans with the walnut mixture and serve either warm or room temperature