green beans, three ways

I’ve been waiting all summer for our garden’s green beans. Now it’s fall, and so far I’ve harvested about a pound of beans this past week from our two Blue Lake bush plants. I wish I’d planted more of them, because it’s one of my favorite vegetables, and we’d have no problem eating the surplus. Seeing the green bean plants finally producing fruit was a long-awaited success after several failures that seemed like it might not happen. Now that the green beans have arrived, the long wait is over. 

For every day meals I like to fix green beans fairly simply, so I thought I’d share three ways we typically cook them. The variations are easy and only require a few ingredients, most of what you probably already have on hand at home.

For the tomato sauce version, I made the “Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil” from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, and simply omitted the basil. It’s a great sauce to make ahead of time and use with whatever you want. If you just want to throw the tomato sauce together on the spot and cook it very briefly before adding the green beans, that works too. The quality of the olive oil and tomatoes are key to its flavor.

The garlic and butter variation is an adaptation of a traditional Spanish dish called “Judías Verdes Con Ajo” (Garlic Green Beans) from The Foods & Wines of Spain by Penelope Casas. Instead of cooking the beans entirely in the pan, I steam them ahead of time and then toss them with the garlic and salt in the pan. This approach saves time, keeps the garlic from burning and becoming bitter, and keeps the nutrient content of the beans more intact. I use this approach with every variation of the green beans.

The third variation became a favorite to make at home after eating a sample of green beans with fresh dill and coarse sea salt at a grocery store cooking demo. You can use fresh or dried dill, but just make sure to use a good quality sea salt.

Of course, with green beans you can riff almost endlessly. Try tossing the steamed green beans with thinly sliced almonds and butter, or parmesan and pine nuts, or feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, or just a grainy dijon mustard. Maybe I should have called this post “green beans, three of many ways,” but you get the idea. Serve any of the variations as a side with beef, chicken, or fish, or by themselves stacked in a sandwich or bundled in a wrap. Just remember, when it comes to eating well, green is good.

Green Beans, Three Ways

1 pound fresh green beans, stem ends snapped off and steamed for 10 minutes until slightly tender using a steamer insert in a medium saucepan

For tomato-garlic sauce variation:
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, blanched and peeled, or 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Put the olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, about a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of black pepper in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 20-25 minutes, until the fat begins to float free from tomatoes. Taste and add more salt if needed. Toss 1 cup of the finished sauce with the steamed green beans in a sauté pan for a few minutes to saturate beans with flavors. Serve immediately.

For garlic green bean variation:
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed with a garlic press
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons butter
sea salt, to taste

Melt butter in sauté pan over medium heat. Add steamed green beans and minced garlic and continue to heat until butter just begins to take on a slightly nutty aroma. Sprinkle with sea salt, toss, and serve immediately.

For dill weed and sea salt variation:
2 tablespoons fresh dill weed, finely chopped, or 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt, to taste

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add steamed green beans, dill weed, and salt. Toss until well-coated. Serve immediately.

Serves 4 people

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