A Bevy Of Beans

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Fat Filet Beans

Feasting And Freezing Green Beans

This has been a grand year for beans, from tender French filet beans to flat, strappy Romanos. When the filet beans are 3-4 inches long, we pick them daily and freeze whatever we can’t eat fresh. If we miss too many days, they’ll ripen into pale green flageolet or shell beans. Left even longer on the vine, they’ll dry completely to become haricots, classics of cold season cookery. Romano beans also need to be harvested frequently, but they’re always welcome additions to stir fries and casseroles. They’re also fantastic roasted on the grill along with plump peppers and ears of corn. Despite the many flavorful green bean varieties to choose from, with my very limited space, I just grow a succession of old favorites, mainly filet, Romano, and Kentucky Wonder Wax beans.

The savory, rich flavor of fresh beans is awakened by many treatments, from a simple toss with butter and lemon to complex casseroles and curries, salads and sides. Green beans also freeze well, so when they ripen in profusion, we pack the fridge. Preparing beans for freezing is simplified if you use a metal colander/basket to plunge them into boiling water for 2-4 minutes, then immediately transfer them into a big bowl of ice water for 1 minute. Use a large salad spinner to dry them off, pat them even drier, then arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed pan and freeze until firm (15-20 minutes). Packed in tightly sealed containers and frozen immediately, they’ll remain delicious for 3-6 months. BUT!

To Blanch Or Not To Blanch?

Standard wisdom insists that vegetables must be steamed or boiled for a few minutes, then quickly cooled before freezing. This step inhibits enzyme activity that impairs the quality of frozen food but it definitely affects the texture. If fresh green beans are harvested a day or more before freezing, it’s best to blanch first. However, when freshly picked green beans are processed right away, they retain excellent flavor and texture even without the usual blanching.

To keep track of your harvest area, use colored yarn or tape to mark off the section you plan to pick that day. For best results, the beans must be thoroughly dry, since ice crystals impair food texture. Organically grown beans can be carefully hosed off in the garden while still on the vine, then quickly sun dried before picking. You can also rinse, spin dry, and pat drier as above. Just tip and tail your beans, cut them to your preferred size, pack into freezer containers and date them with a piece of masking tape and a marker.

Straws Suck

Blanched or not, frozen produce retains quality best when vacuum sealed. If you don’t have a vacuum sealing system, you can make your own with freezer bags and a drinking straw. Fill and close bags, then reopen slightly and insert a straw. Suck out as much air as possible and reseal tightly. I’ve pledged not to buy single use plastics anymore so as my old supply gets used up, I’m shifting back to freezer paper and freezer containers. Old tech, still works!

Wax Beans And Bitter Greens

1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon minced rosemary
1 pound yellow wax beans, ends trimmed
2 cups broccoli rabe
2 cups arugula
1 teaspoon chopped capers

In a wide, shallow pan, combine oil, shallots, salt, and rosemary over medium high heat and cook to the fragrance point (1-2 minutes). Add beans and broccoli rabe, stirring to coat. Cover pan and cook until barely tender (2-3 minutes). Stir in arugula and capers cook until wilted (2-3 minutes). Serve warm, drizzled with pan juices. Serves 4.

Fresh Filet Bean Salad

1 pound filet beans, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes (I used Midnight Snack)
few grinds black pepper
1/4 cup stemmed flat leaf parsley
1 lemon, cut in 6 wedges

Steam beans for 3 minutes, drain. In a serving bowl, combine oil, green onions, salt, tomatoes, pepper. parsley, and the juice of 1 or 2 lemon wedges and whisk to emulsify. Toss beans in dressing and serve, garnished with remaining lemon wedges. Serves 4.

Romano Beans With Hazelnuts

1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/8 teaspoon smoked hot paprika (or any)
1 pound Romano beans, ends trimmed, chopped
1 teaspoon stemmed thyme

In a wide, shallow pan, combine oil, garlic, almonds, salt, and paprika over medium high heat and cook to the fragrance point (1-2 minutes). Add beans and thyme, stirring to coat. Cover pan and cook until barely tender (2-3 minutes) and serve with pan sauce. Serves 4.

Spunky Sizzled Beans

2 tablespoons avocado or olive oil
1 pound Romano beans, ends trimmed
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon finely chopped Ristra or any hot pepper
1-2 teaspoons raspberry vinegar (or any)

In a wide, shallow pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add beans, sprinkle with salt and cook without stirring until lightly charred (2-3 minutes). Flip with a fork or tongs, adding garlic and hot pepper. Cook until well browned (2-3 minutes). Splash with vinegar, stir to coat and serve. Serves 4.


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