LOS ANGELES, July 8, 2013 — It wouldn’t be summer without sitting on a porch popping the growing ends from a million green beans — the smooth textures, the sweet grassy smell wafting in the air and the light, crisp taste.
Assorted green beans. Photo by Karyn Millet
Green beans are a typical summer vegetable, but in the last ten years different varietals of green beans have become available. For instance the purple bean, white/yellow (wax bean), the white bean with purple speckles (dragon beans), and the small green haricot vert bean are becoming more common in urban areas. However, though available, they are not yet popular.
“They’re hard to work with – otherwise I’d be selling more of them,” said Benjamin Cruz of Produce Services of Los Angeles.
Beans are part of the legume family. When beans are young the entire bean and pod can be eaten.
Green, purple, white/yellow beans should all be bought when the individual beans are not visible through the pod because it indicates the beans have matured. A mature bean is tougher to chew.
The beans should be a solid color (unless it’s the spotted bean) without dark spots and slightly firm to the touch. Stay away from damaged beans or ones that are extremely flimsy and soft. Beans should smell fresh, sweet and grassy and NOT moldy.
After you’ve bought your green beans, don’t wash them until you are ready to cook them. Water causes them to break out in gray/black spots, ultimately making them inedible.
All beans can be cooked in the same manner by boiling in salted water for four to five minutes. Once they are soft but still have a slight crunch, remove them from the water and place them in an ice bath for a few minutes to stop the cooking process.
Or you can serve them immediately. Green beans are one of those fabulous vegetables that can be served hot or cold and can be precooked ahead of time.
After you’ve cooked your green beans flavor them with salt, pepper, lemon zest, herbs, etc. You can even add vinegar or acids but don’t add these items until you are giving it to your guests because it will change the vibrant green into a dull and ugly yellow splotch.
Green beans aren’t just for casseroles; they can be used in appetizers, side dishes and even salads. Here is a great recipe from my kitchen to yours.
Green Bean and Tomato Salad
This recipe requires the green beans to be at their peak of freshness. Beans are cooked to perfection (also known as al dente or “to the tooth”). In other words the green beans should be cooked but have a slight bite to them.
Time: 1 hour Servings: 4
1 lb French green beans
1 c of grape tomatoes
1/2 c almonds toasted
1 T chopped parsley
1 c croutons
2 T olive oil
1 T Champagne vinegar
1/8 t herbs of Provence
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut a loaf of ciabatta bread into bite size cubes. Toss the bread with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper. Place them on a greased cookie sheet and put them in the oven. Toast the bread at 325 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until the bread is toasted. Remove from the oven and let them cool.
Next, use a peeler to make large strips of the Parmesan cheese and set aside.
Put all of the green beans in the medium mixing bowl and wash them with cold water. Next remove the growing end of the green bean by cutting it at an angle. Set onto a cookie sheet. Next in a large pot boiling water, add salt before you add the green beans. Cook the green beans for four minutes (they should have a little bit of a crunch to them).
Cool them down in water and ice to stop the cooking. Once they have cooled, remove them and dry them off between towels.
Toss the green beans with Champagne vinegar, tomatoes and parsley.
Add the tomatoes and shaved Parmesan and drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top.
Pile the salad in the middle of each plate. Garnish with croutons and left over parsley. Serve and enjoy.
Also read: What to do with Overly Ripe Tomatoes