I’ve joked about writing “Ode to Green Beans,” as I’ve tried valiantly to offer stories on this page beyond the standard late-summer features.
“How to Make Adorable Crafts with the 843 Zucchini Your Neighbor Dumped On Your Front Porch While You Were Hanging Laundry in the Back Yard” and “How Many Different Ways Can You Cook Corn on the Cob (and Is There a Polite Way to Pick It Out of Your Teeth in Public)?” were not on the agenda. I had no intention of becoming one of the sheep who followed that boring August pattern.
And yet here you are, reading an article entitled “Ode to Green Beans.” How did this happen?
I was inspired by a dish I recently ate when I forgot to bring my own lunch from home.
I’d thought I would just pick up a coffee and a muffin that day, until I walked past Ranya’s, 608 Adams St., a small, family-owned Mediterranean lunch spot. I hadn’t yet had a chance to eat there despite working in the neighborhood.
A proper meal certainly sounded better than a mere snack, so I went in and ordered one of the daily specials: the spinach pie paired with lubia, a slow-cooked dish of green beans simmered in a cinnamon-scented tomato sauce. If I could share the extraordinary fragrance of the lubia with you, I would. Unfortunately, technology has not yet advanced to such a degree. Someone should work on that project. We don’t need more apps for self-hypnosis or turning our photos into Warhol-like masterpieces. What we need are aromas to supplement Instagram and Pinterest pictures.
As I sat and ate, relishing the tenderness and flavor of the beans, I realized that this dish needed to be shown off. This vegetable needed its moment in the spotlight, during its prime time in August.
And thus, “Ode to Green Beans.”
Some people like crisp, crunchy green beans, others like them to be meltingly soft. I will eat them all, which should come as no surprise. I’ll even admit to a perverse, but enthusiastic, fondness for the lowbrow charm of that dump ’n’ stir classic, green bean casserole.
This is a bittersweet time, as the bounty of the summer harvest we now gleefully enjoy also reminds us that days are becoming shorter and fall isn’t too far away. In the spring, we invested our hopes into gardens and farms; the glorious rainbow of tomatoes and melons, corn and herbs, berries and eggplants are now rewarding us for our faith and trust.
And the green beans? I’m not a poet, but here is my ode (or, rather, haiku) to this fabulous vegetable:
Sautéed, pickled, or
roasted, green beans will make you
so very happy.
The simple beauty of these dishes will have you writing your own ode to the delicious green bean.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 12 ounces green beans, ends trimmed
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- generous pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- crumbled feta cheese, optional
- pita bread, for serving
Slow-Cooked Green Beans with Cinnamon
Inspired by the lubia, I prepared this tender, fragrant dish. Feta makes a lovely complement, but is not necessary.
Heat the oil in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and the onion; cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the green beans and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes. Fill the empty tomato can half-way with water, then add the water, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon. Cover skillet and bring to a boil, then cook for 5 minutes. Turn heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Add just a bit of water water as necessary to make sure the sauce isn’t too thick; you want to be able to sop it up with pita bread.
Serve hot with pita bread, topped with feta if desired.
Yield: 8-10 servings.
Source: Mary Bilyeu
Green Beans with Crushed Almonds
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
- 1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup blanched whole almonds, ground or finely chopped
A simple, classic favorite that I’ve been making since first finding the recipe in the late, great Gourmet magazine 15 years ago.
Cook beans in a 3-quart saucepan of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes, and drain. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat, then cook garlic, stirring, until it just begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add almonds and cook, stirring, until they begin to color slightly, about 2 minutes. Add beans and cook, stirring, until tender and heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Yield: 2 servings.
Source: Gourmet, September 1999
Young Green Beans with Lemony Cream Sauce
- fine sea salt
- 1 pound young green beans, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1-1/2 tablespoons water (or vodka)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
Green beans “really shine when given a light creamy dressing,” says James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Amy Thielen.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil, adding salt until it tastes like seawater. When it boils, add the beans and bring the water back to a boil as quickly as possible. Cook until they’re just tender to the bite but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain the beans, shaking them to remove any excess water.
Meanwhile, in a skillet that is large enough to later accommodate the beans, heat the butter and garlic over medium heat. Once the garlic begins to sizzle, pour in the cream and bring to a boil. Cook rapidly, stirring the edges constantly with a spatula, until the cream has visibly thickened into a yellow cream, is throwing large bubbles, and can hold the trace of the spoon, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, water or vodka, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the pepper.
Add the beans to the cream and toss to combine. Sprinkle with the dill, and transfer to a serving bowl. Toss again right before serving. This is good served either hot or lukewarm.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Source: Adapted from Amy Thielen, The New Midwestern Table