The Green Bean Love Train

When a What's Cooking reader from Boston, Mass. asked for ideas for a bunch of newly purchased green beans, she spoke to my heart. Whenever I look at a fresh green bean, which are coming into season in the southeast, I always see possibilities. It seems I've got enthusiastic company, as fellow readers chimed in with their own personal green bean-y faves.

Green beans: Gentle giants.(Kim O'Donnel)

During the live chat, I only had time to share recipe details for these Szechuan-style green beans, which have become a summer dinner party staple at Casa Appetite, but ever since, I've had green beans on the brain, gathering recipe and flavor combination ideas that keep the green bean love-a-thon going.

Before we get started, I wanted to mention a bit of nutritional information about our friend, the green bean: One cup offers 16 percent of the RDA for dietary fiber and 20 percent for vitamin C (a new one for me). It's also got a fair amount of iron and potassium.

Below, a handful of green-bean inspired notions from yours truly and a small handful of cookbook authors representing a variety of cuisines. Have a looksee and please add your favorites to the list!

* Try this quickie hot salad with little tomatoes, walnuts and herbs. Don't worry if you don't have walnuts; use what you've got on hand. The same applies to herbs -- green beans play nicely with mint, parsley and basil, as a garnish.

* Speaking of herbs, what about a gremolata (mix of parsley, garlic and lemon zest) added to shalloty sauteed green beans....

* Ooh... and now I'm thinking a pesto would be killer - garlic scape, basil, arugula -- add some to a handful of steamed or boiled beans and you'll have some magic on your hands.

* I'm intrigued by the idea of making a sauce from almond butter(!), seasoned with soy sauce and rice vinegar for some quickly boiled or steamed beans. This comes from chef Martha Stafford, owner of the Charlottesville Cooking School who contributed this nifty idea to "Cooking Fresh from the Mid-Atlantic" by Fran McManus & Wendy Rickard.

* Madelain Farah in her "Lebanese Cuisine" offers up a handful of green bean options (known as Lubyil in Arabic), including Lubyi biz-Zayt -- braised with plenty of onion and garlic in a marinara sauce.

* Austin, Tex.-based cookbook writer and cooking instructor Angela Shelf Medearis has a slew of green bean-centric ideas in her "The Ethnic Vegetarian"; I'm game to follow her lead on a vinaigrette heavy on the sesame seeds and plenty of pepper, both black and red. She also offers up a South African-style sweet-and-sour egg-based sauce that includes malt vinegar, brown sugar and stone-ground mustard.

* Green beans are featured prominently in "Bon Appetit, Y'all," the new book by Atlanta-based food stylist and chef Virginia Willis. I love her pairing idea of kalamata or nicoise olives, and yes of course, let's not forget some version of minestrone, which she dishes up with okra, zucchini and lots of Vidalia onions. Incidentally, Willis will be in town next month for lunch/book party hosted by the Loulies gals.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 15, 2008; 11:21 AM ET Spring Produce , Vegetarian/Vegan
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I often cook frozen green beans according to package directions, drain and then add butter, lemon juice, and grated parmesan cheese to the pan. My kids love this.

An alternative is to toss lightly with a salad dressing after cooking. I recently got a great dressing from Whole Foods--Ginger-Miso dressing, which tastes great with beans.

Fresh beans I cook in the pressure cooker with bacon.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2008 2:02 PM

I inherited a favorite easy, cheap green bean dish from a grad school friend - in his honor, I still use canned french cut green beans. I saute some cubed tofu with sesame oil, then add the green beans, a bunch of soy sauce and lemon juice and cook it together. It really is good.

Posted by: CP | May 15, 2008 2:30 PM

link to the Lebanese grub?

Posted by: patricia | May 15, 2008 3:51 PM

I had green beans with ginger salad dressing for dinner just last night!

One of my favorite meals, especially when I get home late, is to steam up some plain vegetables. Often, I'll eat them with just a little oil and vinegar or lemon juice. If I'm treating myself, I'll splash them with a bit of salad dressing--citrus, ginger, cucumber, fruity, you name it. Whole Foods used to make a lemon tahini dressing that was terrific with veggies, but they don't carry it anymore. I'm going to have to experiment on my own, I guess--shouldn't be too hard.

Also love your ideas of the quickie hot salad with tomatoes and walnuts, as well as the almond butter sauce!

Posted by: alex | May 15, 2008 6:38 PM

Green beans are very comforting somehow; maybe it's their association with country cooking, holidays, and summer picnics. Or maybe they are intrinsically comforting.

Posted by: DB | May 15, 2008 8:32 PM

Just chiming in to support the green beans with pesto - even a straight-up basil or spinach pesto is nice. I like tossing the just-cooked beans, hot just-boiled new potatoes, and pesto together for a really comforting warm salad.

Posted by: M.L. | May 15, 2008 9:06 PM

Roast 'em!!!

Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil, plus salt and garlic powder (fresh garlic will scorch) and spread out on a pan and roast at 400 - 425 degrees around 20 - 30 minutes.


Works with broccoli, cabbage and brussels sprouts too....

Posted by: Leslie | May 15, 2008 10:37 PM

I roast them too, but follow the Moosewood instructions--roast with thinly sliced onion, garlic, and when done toss with a little balsamic vinegar. yum!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 16, 2008 12:51 AM

I made the fresh corn and green bean salad from the WaPo recipe archives. I used frozen corn. I did not have the 5 kinds of fresh herbs needed for the dressing, so I used a bottled Caesar dressing with oregano. It was quite good. I would add more corn and possibly a diced, cooked potato.

Posted by: MP | May 16, 2008 1:02 AM

Here's a easy dinner featuring green beans

1-2 lbs. of green beans-cleaned

4-6 potatoes

1 chunk of ham 2-4 lbs or 1 smoked pork (ham) butt

Place ingredients in large pot or slow cooker. Cover with water. Cook over low heat on stovetop for 1 hour-until potatoes & beans are soft or cook on low in slow cooker several hours.
Recipe is easily expandable.

Posted by: cm | May 16, 2008 1:34 PM

For an idea with a little heat, head to India. Gujerati green beans are tasty! You can find various recipes on the net. Here's my distillation of these. You can set the heat level to taste:

Gujerati Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed ends
1 med. onion or lg. shallot, peeled and chopped
2 T vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter)
2 tsp. whole black mustard seeds
1 tsp. ground cumin seeds, toasted
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
6 - 12 sliced jalapeño peppers (to taste)
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
50 g / 2 oz freshly grated or desiccated coconut
salt & black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large fry pan over a medium heat. Sautee the onion or shallot - when hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to pop (watch out, those mustard seeds really do jump out), put in the green chiles, ginger, curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric and chilli powder and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Work fast - you don't want to burn these ingredients.

2. Stir in the green beans, tomatoes and 2 T water. Stir to mix. Turn the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the beans are soft and tender. Toss in the ground cumin (and the coconut if you are adding this ingredient) and stir. Cover and cook the beans for 7 to 8 minutes or until they have absorbed the flavor of the spices. Add salt and black pepper to taste, mix and serve.

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | May 25, 2008 4:49 PM

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