Veggie Basics: A String, A Green, We’re Full of Beans!

When I was young, my weary mother occasionally prepared green beans.  They were canned green beans and they were cooked in the style of the day, which is to say that they were boiled until limp.  Now, if you are a canned limp green bean fan, please don’t take offense. I cannot make some “truth” claim about what is a good green bean, but I can tell you what green beans are good TO me, and as you may have guessed canned limp green beans are not in this club.  The only other green bean exposure I had with any regularity was at my dear grandmother’s house.  Her addition to the container of limp green beans was a big piece of fatback.  While I understand that might entice some folks, it didn’t create a veggie siren song for me.  All this is to say that I am a late bloomer where the green bean is concerned.

Years later, I was convinced to try green beans with a promise of something truly different from what I’d experienced before, something that tasted like, well, something other than salt water.  Al dente… tender crisp… a vegetable that is still cooked, but that resists the bite, offers a little crunch, demonstrates a need for teeth.  And so began my love affair with green beans.  I’ve since tried all the varieties I can find (I must confess that the yellow ones still don’t work for me), and have prepared them a variety of ways – and that’s they part you’re probably actually interested in.

For green beans, Mr. Little Sis and I used to steam them most often.  The key was to yank them before they went too far.  We watched and like most green veggies, green beans will tell you when they’re done.  They turn brighter green before they go too far.  So we would peek, stick with a fork, and pull the beans out of the steamer at the magic moment.  We would add a little butter and some lemon juice, a little salt – delish.

As most of you know, we now have more voices to answer to and green beans were not an immediate sell, but I pulled the trickiest maneuver around.  I grew them, and had my kids help me pick them.  I don’t know anybody who can pick a bunch of anything without tasting one.  This is why both my children happily eat fresh green beans and peas.  So I thought we’d have no problem with them at the dinner table.

As it turns out, steaming is not the answer for my little garden elves.  I was perplexed – why do they like it off the vine and not from the steamer?  So I roasted them (who doesn’t like roasted anything?), but that was not going to work either.  I became confused and started cutting the beans up and mixing them with other things to attempt a softer sell by mixing things together (HAHAHA says the mother of older kids who have never preferred to have things touching on the plate).

I finally asked the little darlings how they’d like me make their beans (novel, huh?) and they said they’d like them raw, thank you very much.  We often serve our fresh green beans raw in a bowl on the table.  At our table it is considered polite to eat these raw beans with the fingers.  To prepare, I simply trim the ends.  If the beans are more mature, I will pull the strings, but this is usually not necessary.  The kids can often be cajoled to pop the ends off to help prepare dinner.

After a few years of raw green beans, I posed the question again.  Is there some other way we can enjoy green beans together?  “Sure Mommy, we might like them warm.”  And thus, we have settled on our favorite green beans.  They are not quite al dente – more like al lotsa dente – but warm and flavorful.  I have two versions for you, both of which passed the kid test and which we enjoyed immensely.

Simple, Not Plain, Green Beans

  • enough green beans for your tribe with an extra handful or two for leftover lunches, with ends trimmedIMG_8772
  • olive oil for the pan (about 1 T, you’re not frying them)
  • sprinkle of salt
  • toasted pecans (or nuts of preference, you can also do raw, but the toasted are super special)

I usually toast my nuts while I’m trimming the beans.  I simply warm a cast iron pan (with no oil in it).  IMG_8767When the pan is warm, I put the pecans in and let them sit for a minute.  While I’m trimming the beans, I stir the pecans around occasionally, and attempt to flip them over so they are toasted on both sides (I am, admittedly, not very careful or patient and so the whole both sides concern is pretty limited for me).  If you smell the nuts while you’re trimming your beans, you should stir them.  The scent gets stronger and more wonderful just before they burn.

IMG_8770On to the beans.  Warm olive oil in pan.  Add green beans and let them be for a couple of minutes.  As the beans release some moisture you’ll hear noises that sound like frying, but it’s not.  Treat them like the nuts – flip them around occasionally, keep your eye on them.  They will get brighter green.  Sprinkle a little salt and remove to serving dish when they are warm, but still entirely and delightfully solid.  Add pecans, toss, eat.

Fancy Shmancy Green Beans or Green Beans with Pecans, Clementines and Balsamic Vinegar

  • enough beans for your tribeIMG_8783
  • olive oil for the pan
  • sprinkle of salt
  • toasted pecans (or your have)
  • 2 chopped clementines (or other sweet orange)
  • 1 small glug balsamic vinegar

Toast nuts as above.  Peel and segment clementines.  If you want to be SUPER fancy and have a hot little knife you want to give a whirl, you could supreme (and no, I don’t mean sing Baby Love) the clementine sections as described and documented by our pal Patty here.IMG_8780  I am inadequately patient for such a maneuver, so I simply cut my sections into 3 pieces each.

I prepared my beans the exact same way as described above, being careful not to overcook them (which for my folks means taking them beyond warm).  I moved them to a bowl, added the nuts, added the clementines, and a small glug of balsamic vinegar.  Don’t bathe them in it – start small, see how you feel about it.  You can always add more, as we do, every time we use it.  My children are balsamic vinegar fiends – yes that’s weird.  Toss to distribute nuts, fruit, and vinegar.  Serve, eat, experience delighted surprise at the mix of tang, sweet, nutty, crunchy and then try to discreetly grab some seconds before you (or anyone else) finish the first serving.  Delish.

This post was shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday.

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64 responses

  1. I’m guilty of considering green beans to be one of the most boring/disappointing of eats…probably because the beans I can get at our market are sad specimens. Fresh out of the garden – well, that’s a whole different thang – and dressed up w/ nuts and clementines, well, boy howdy!

    • For some reason one of the markets near us has been pretty consistently good on green beans – and since the kids will eat them, I’ll get them out of season. We had the fancy version last night and I must confess that both Scot and I were watching the little beasts just hoping they wouldn’t want more (after they had seconds) so we could scarf the rest up. Boy howdy is right!

  2. If my comment suddenly appears three times, sorry, I’m a dork today! “Baby Love” Ha! Wish I’d thought of that! My mother liked to serve us limp and watery “french cut” green beans from a can. I’m with you and you’re kids, Sis, I like ’em crisp and barely cooked. Thanks for the link, too!

  3. Lol…yeah, soggy n’ limp green beans are where it ain’t at! I grew up on those as well. Even the home grown ones were always limp.
    I love them barely steamed, where they are vivid in color, tender but still have bite, drizzled with a little EVOO, salt and pepper. Sigh….can’t wait for summer!

  4. I have tried to explain to many people what i mean by you can smell when they are done and you totally capture that here! They do tell you, as does broccoli. And that super bright color just before they go to the dark side is exactly what my mother just does not get. I grew what must have been 85 million green beans this year and they grew well into November. I blanched a froze a bunch and then started giving them away. I brought them for lunch almost every day and would bring a bag full for another unsuspecting soul. It became like the old zucchini legend where people run from you screaming because they don’t want your zucchini except I was peddling green beans. I grew up on canned beans and HATED them. What a miracle when my mother discovered frozen beans. No one could understand why I didn’t want to can my own beans! And as for yellow? 2 words. Wax beans. WTF? I hated them then and I know I will hate them now!

    I hadn’t thought of roasting green beans but you can be sure I will now!!

  5. We are big green bean eaters in our house but I started where you did with canned beans from my childhood. Boy was I surprised the first time my husband steamed fresh ones! Now we like to roast them or saute them usually with garlic…we’re also big garlic fans. My son however prefers to eat them raw and I don’t mind as long as he is eating them 🙂

  6. After so many experiences with soggy green beans as a child, I rarely buy them as an adult. However, your simple recipes seem so promising! I will definitely give them a try as I love greens.

  7. Yum! These look so tasty and definitely never had green beans with nuts before, must try! Stopping by from the Your Girlish Whims link up 🙂

    Lindsay
    LindsayJEveryday.blogspot.com

  8. Wow! You have definitely made something that we all grew up thinking was boring (and limp) into something that looks delicious! I love the idea of the nuts and olive oil with it. Yum! Thanks so much for sharing with “Try a New Recipe Tuesday!” I can’t wait to see what you share this week! 🙂 🙂

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