By Sherrie Norris
It’s one of the few healthy green vegetables that even kids love to eat. Most often referred to simply as green or string beans, they’re now being harvested from local gardens and are abundant in produce stands everywhere this time of year.
They are relatively easy to grow, and at their best, should be bright green without blemish. The pods should be crisp, with the best bean being slender in size. Beans may be steamed or boiled uncovered until tender. They may also be used in a variety of other ways: stir-fried as well as sautéed, in casseroles, etc.
Beans are the seeded pods of the legume family; a food staple in many countries for thousands of years. Today, beans remain an important product grown by farmers the world over and are nutritious as well as good to eat. There are literally hundreds of varieties of beans, but we will focus on the “snap” bean common to our area.
Here are a few ways to make the simple green bean a bit “extraordinary.”
Herbed Green Beans
1 pound fresh green beans, stem ends removed
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil or 2 tsp. dried basil leaves
Steam green beans 5 minutes or until crisp tender. Rinse under cold running water; drain and set aside. Just before serving, heat oil over medium-low heat in large non-stick skillet. Add chopped basil; cook and stir 1 minute. Add green beans. Cook until heated through. Serve immediately.
Country Fresh Green Beans
4 slices bacon
3 medium onions, sliced
4 cups fresh green beans, snapped or left whole
2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled, sliced and diced
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup boiling water
In large skillet, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and crumble. In bacon fat, sauté sliced onions until tender and light brown. Add green beans and lightly sauté. Add tomatoes, salt, pepper and water. Simmer covered for about 30 minutes or until beans are tender. Stir in bacon and serve.
Far East Green Beans
3 cups fresh green beans, cut diagonally into 1-inch slices
1 cup celery, cut diagonally in ¼-inch slices
1 small can sliced mushrooms, drained
3 Tbs. salad oil
1 Tbs. cornstarch
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 beef bouillon cube
Cook beans in salted water until tender-crisp; do not overcook. Drain, reserving liquid. Meanwhile, cook celery and mushrooms in oil in skillet until celery is tender-crisp. Blend cornstarch with soy sauce, bean liquid and bouillon cube. Add to celery mixture along with beans. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture comes to a boil and bouillon cube is thoroughly dissolved.
Snap Beans and Cheese
4 cups green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small chopped onion
2 slices bacon, diced
¼ cup milk
½ cup grated cheese
½ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
Cook beans with onion and bacon in boiling salted water until tender. Drain, reserving liquid. Add ¼ cup bean liquid, milk, cheese, salt and pepper to beans. Stir until cheese melts.