Getting Fresh: Snap Beans
Green, yellow, purple. French, Romano, Dragon Tongue. These are just some of the names you might come across this summer wherever snap (aka string) beans are being sold.
Regardless of variety, which vary in texture and flavor, they're all young forms of the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) picked before their seeds develop (at which point, they become shell beans). Young beans should be sweet as well as snappy, and if you've got a bunch of flabby, mealy pods, well, add them to the compost pile.
I love snap beans, particularly at this time of year. As a teenager, I used to eat them raw, right out of the bag, and share them with Larry the house painter, when he'd break for lunch.
These days, I like to cook them, just for a few minutes, and let the muse inspire me on how to fix them. They're so easy going, those beans; you can steam, boil, sautÃ© and bake them, and they always come out nice AS LONG AS YOU DON'T OVERCOOK THEM. We all know what overcooked snap beans taste like (C-A-F-E-T-E-R-I-A), which is a darned shame because life is too short to eat bland green beans.
Last night, I decided to do a quick boil with my mini-mountain of yellow wax beans, just a few minutes to soften them up yet keep their mellow yellow color. I had a small handful of walnuts in the freezer and warmed them up in a skillet, with a bit of olive oil to keep things slick. In the pan went a handful of sliced smallish tomatoes, then the beans, for a quick toss and melding of flavors.
On top went some lemon thyme from the backyard, a squeeze of lemon and a wee bit more salt. The fat and crunch of the nuts helped me forget about adding bacon, which I've had on the brain since all my recent travels in the South. And that brings me to my main point: Add what you want to this medley. Omit the tomatoes if they make you unhappy, for example, and use herbs or any other add-ons of your choice. There are all kinds of possibilities here -- garlic, shallots, olives, potatoes!
Share your favorite way to eat snap beans in the comments area below. And if you're around at 1 ET, join me for an hour of What's Cooking Vegetarian, my monthly meatless roundtable.
Recipe below the jump.
Impromptu Snap Bean Salad
1 pound yellow wax beans or other snap beans
1 tablespoon olive oil or unsalted butter
1/4 cup nuts -- walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pecans all come to mind
1 handful small tomatoes, sliced in half - grape, cherry or sungold varieties come to mind
A few teaspoons fresh chopped herbs - lemon thyme was wonderful, but I'd also try mint, basil, parsley and chives
Rinse beans under running water and trim ends as necessary. Boil in salted water, uncovered, until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Taste before removing from pot. Pour beans into a colander and drain.
In a skillet, melt butter or heat olive oil over low-medium heat, add nuts and allow to toast for a minute. Add tomatoes and beans and with tongs, mix to combine, allowing to cooking for about 2 minutes. Pour into a serving bowl and add herbs. Taste for salt and add accordingly.
Serve warm or at room temperature. I also added a squeeze of lemon just before serving.
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