Roasting, Steaming, & Putting Up String Beans

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When Bountiful Beans Arrive

After a slow start, the beans are coming in fast and plentiful. The slender, tender French filet beans tend to get eaten in the garden, or tossed in a lunchtime salad. Flat, strappy Romanos and colorful string beans, yellow, purple and green, may be steamed and stir fried, oven roasted and caramelized or grilled until lightly charred. As usual, I planted way more than we can eat, so every few days another batch gets tucked in the freezer. If those little filet beans aren’t picked daily, they quickly become flageolet or shell beans. Let them dry completely, still on the vine, and now they’re French haricots, classic dry beans for cassoulet and soups. I’m letting most of the Good Mother Stallard beans get to the dry stage, as they’re utterly delicious in hearty winter soups. If hefty Romano beans get a little leathery, they too can be allowed to dry, but the extra string beans end up in my freezer.

Fortunately, string beans freeze well, whether blanched or not. Blanching beans and other vegetables involves briefly steaming or boiling them, then cooling them fast to halt the cooking process. This 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 better to blanch them; fill a metal colander or fryer basket with clean beans, tipped and tailed. Plunge them into rapidly boiling water for 2-4 minutes, then immediately transfer them into a big bowl of ice water for 1 minute. Whirl them dry in a large salad spinner, pat them totally dry, 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. If freshly picked green beans are washed, dried and frozen immediately, they retain excellent flavor and texture for up to three months even without the usual blanching.

Vacuum Pack Or Freezer Wrap

All frozen produce resists freezer burn and retains quality best when thoroughly dried before freezing in vacuum sealed pouches. It’s easy to make your own vacuum sealing system with zip-closure freezer bags and a drinking straw. Fill a bag, press out as much air as possible, then seal it around the drinking straw. Suck out as much air as possible and quickly reseal tightly. To avoid plastic, tightly wrap well-dried produce in freezer paper, seal with freezer tape, and pack in sturdy freezer containers. Yay!

Big Beans & Vinegar

High heat often brings out the boldest flavors in big, mature beans, especially oven roasting, perhaps with peppers and tomatoes. When it’s too hot to fire up the oven, grill your beans along with fish or poultry, or try this simple, speedy stovetop version. Fruity vinegars bring out the singing sweetness of meaty, tender beans, experiment to find your favorite combinations. My summery vinegar making includes the usual blueberry and raspberry, both of which are pleasant indeed, but my new favorite is nectarine vanilla, which is also fabulous with steamed or roasted beets. Still in the bottle; lemon mint vinegar. Hmmm. We shall see…

Lightly Charred Big Beans

2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
4 cups mature Romano-type beans, ends trimmed
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon finely chopped hot pepper
1-2 teaspoons fruity vinegar

In a wide, shallow pan, heat oil over medium high heat. Add beans, stir to coat, 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.

String Beans And Bitter Greens

In Italy, tender young string beans are often paired with bitter greens to contrast the peppery bite with the beany sweetness. This favorite recipe lends itself to variations, perhaps using oregano, rosemary or basil instead of thyme, and spicy garlic or shallots instead of sweet onions. Unless they’re chopped up, it’s a little challenging to accurately measure things like string beans and broccoli raab, but I just loosely fill my bigger glass measuring cups to get an idea of quantities. I often make this satisfying dish with golden wax beans but it’s delicious with any kind of string beans.

Golden Beans With Bitter Greens

1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
1/2 sweet onion, thickly sliced
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon stemmed thyme
3-4 cups yellow wax beans, ends trimmed
2 cups broccoli rabe, stems included
2 cups shredded arugula, lightly packed
1 teaspoon brined green peppercorns (optional)
2 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds

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

Warm String Bean Salad

Make this with tiny, tender fillet beans, or use several colors of beans for a playful, pretty presentation. Fillet beans can be used raw or steamed for just a minute or two, while meatier beans might need another few minutes, so taste often to catch them while they’re just tender-crisp.

4 cups string beans, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil
1 tablespoon balsamic or cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Pinch of smoked or hot paprika
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup stemmed cilantro OR parsley OR basil

Steam beans for 2-4 minutes, drain. In a serving bowl, combine oil, vinegar, salt, and paprika and whisk to emulsify. Toss warm beans in dressing, add tomatoes and gently toss again and serve warm, garnished with stemmed herb(s). Serves 4.


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One Response to Roasting, Steaming, & Putting Up String Beans

  1. Tamara says:

    You’re making my mouth water!! I have some beans, a bit of arugula, and some pumpkin seeds. You’ve inspired me 🙂

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