By Barbara Beltrami
Green beans, string beans, snap beans — What’s in a name? They’re all pretty much the same thing; a favorite, as veggies go, among many people, and unlike some other veggies, seldom considered “yucky.” At this time of year, they abound in bushel baskets at farm stands, green thatches of long and slender and crisp vegetable freshness. Trimmed and lightly steamed just to the point of tenderness where they still retain their greenness, they make a fine side dish on their own dressed with lemon or butter, or as a tasty component of salads, soups, casseroles, pasta or potato dishes.
So here’s what you need to do. Go to a farm stand, carefully pick out a bunch of skinny unblemished beans, take them home, sit yourself down near a fan or an AC vent, put a bowl in your lap, and with a little knife or your thumbnail, remove the brownish stem ends of the beans, then cut or snap them to desired size (I like to leave them whole). Here are some recipes to get you started.
Green Bean and Potato Salad with Anchovy Vinaigrette
This is almost but not quite a salade nicoise.
YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings
2 pounds new potatoes, scrubbed and coarsely chopped
1 pound skinny green beans, stem end removed
2 garlic cloves, smashed into a paste
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
2 teaspoons prepared Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large handfuls baby arugula
4 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
2 ripe garden fresh tomatoes, sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes in salted water until just tender; remove from water, let sit until cool enough to handle , then cut into thin slices or dice. Simultaneously, in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer, salt the green beans to taste and cook over boiling water until tender but still bright green. Immediately remove and place in bowl of ice water for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
Meanwhile in a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, anchovy paste, capers, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. When ready to serve, arrange arugula on a serving plate, toss the potatoes and beans with the vinaigrette and pile on top of the arugula. Arrange sliced or diced eggs and tomatoes on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper; garnish with chopped herbs. Serve warm or at room temperature with a chilled dry white wine, crusty French bread and unsalted butter.
Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
This combination of green beans and onions is a far cry from that old recipe made with canned onions and cream of mushroom soup.
YIELD: Makes 8 servings
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large Vidalia or red onions, peeled and cut into rings
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
½ tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 pounds fresh skinny green beans, trimmed and steamed or boiled till tender but still bright green
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat the butter and oil in medium skillet over medium heat; add onions, turn heat up to medium-high, and cook onions, stirring frequently, until light golden; add thyme, brown sugar and vinegar and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until onions are a rich medium dark brown. Place string beans in a serving bowl and top with caramelized onions. Serve warm or hot with poultry or meat.
Green Beans with Bacon and Balsamic
YIELD: Makes 6 to 8 servings
2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cooked till tender but bright green
½ pound bacon, cooked till crispy and crumbled
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a large serving bowl toss the beans and bacon. In a small bowl whisk together the oil, bacon fat, vinegar, and salt and pepper. Half an hour before serving, toss the string bean mixture with oil mixture; tossing a few more times, let sit for at least half an hour. Serve at room temperature or warm with pork or poultry or as a main dish.