Saturday, 8 August 2009

Green Beans - a different dish for almost every day of the week.

Oh, yes, it was a bit of a bean bonanza yesterday. Well, they are in season and we had a tiny handful of green and purple organic beans to do something with. I should have used them for the bruschetta but by then I'd already prepared this. But if you stick your nose into the saucepan you'll spot the purple ones before they sadly turn a dark green whilst cooking.

Green beans are so versatile you could have them almost every day of the week without repeating the same dish. The following is a basic recipe that gives the option to eat the beans hot or as a warm/cold salad.

500g of fine green beans, topped and tailed
3-2 shallots (or 1 medium onion), finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
dried summer savory, if available, but Herbes de Provence will do, too)
3-4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
boiling water or stock, if preferred
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
For the salad version: juice of 1 lime or lemon

1. Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan. This will allow the beans to be spread out ensuring they cook evenly.

2. Sauté the garlic and shallots over a low to medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent them from browning. Once tender, add the beans and toss them using a spatula until they're well covered in oil, garlic and shallots.

3. Pour in about 2cm of boiling water or stock. Not all the beans will be covered. This will prevent all the vitamins from disappearing into the liquid, which is drained off once the beans are cooked. With this method, some of the beans are steamed while the others are cooked in the liquid. It's therefore important to mix them every now and again, so they can change places ;)

4. Season with pepper and salt. Beans need a relatively large amount of salt, so keep checking the seasoning and add more salt as necessary.

5. Simmer the beans over a medium heat until tender - this lot took about 15 minutes.

6. Drain off any remaining liquid, hopefully not more than a few tablespoons worth, and turn the beans out into a - warm - bowl if using as a hot dish.

7. If using as a salad, dress with the lime or lemon juice and leave to cool at room temperature. Serve warm or cold.

More variations:
Hot dishes
1. Chop up some panchetta and sauté with the shallots and garlic.
2. Replace the water/stock with a can of chopped tomatoes, adding a splash of red wine and simmer until the veg are tender.
3. Add a dozen halved cherry tomatoes.

Another bean salad:
My mum used to add cream and a little vinegar to cooled, leftover green beans and serve them as a salad the next day (if the salad hadn't been demolished by us before then).

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