17 August 2011

Green Day

Green Beans have a messaging issue: For openers green beans aren’t always green. Sure they go by other names,

Beans of Many Colors

but alternate names have their own identity problems: with string beans, certain heirlooms aside, the string was bred out of them at the turn of last century; runner beans aren’t exactly ambulatory; snap beans occasionally go limp; Wax beans = no wax; French bean is an Anglicization of beans introduced to England from France (even though haricot is probably etymologically German) and just to add to the geographic confusion – string beans, runner beans, green beans etc, actually hail from an area that stretches from the Andes to Central America and weren’t known in Europe by any name well into the 16th Century.

Then sometimes beans are Italian even when they are grown locally. Italian beans, also known as Romano beans are like other green beans in that they aren’t always green, but they are always rectangular and flat – owning a deserved reputation for being more chewy and flavorful. They appear for a short time in the summer and like most green beans they don’t like the cold. They can be refrigerated with okay results, but for tender beans, it is best they go from plant to pot as quickly as possible. Romanos can be cooked quickly, but they are also a veg that is very forgiving to the forgetful. Leave them in the fridge for a week? Eh. Forget they were simmering on the stove? They turn from chewy to silken. Like a soup you can eat with a fork.

For those of you that follow the dictate of fresh, local and seasonal you’ll feel there is something fundamentally wrong with what I am instructing you to do. Your doubt will double, possibly triple when the beans change from bright green to drab olive. It’s the flavor and texture you’re after not the color. Serve hot or cold – leftovers are good as a salad or add to cooked penne for a pasta dish.

The Eternal Bean

Silken Romano Beans 

¼ cup olive oil

2-3 oz. hard salami, sliced into small Julienne – I wholly endorse Olympic Provisions’ Chorizo Rioja*

2-3 cloves garlic, smashed flat with knife, ‘paper’ removed.

1 lb Roman green beans, trimmed at stem end, cut into 2 inch pieces

¾ cup room temperature water

Salt & Pepper

*For the meat free option, substitute one big tomato – Instead of salami, add to the olive oil.

Low heat, this will all be done on low heat. Turning the heat up doesn’t make anything cook quicker, it only changes the end result – we are going for texture and flavor, be patient.

Heat oil and add salami, cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and beans, stir together for a minute before adding water and a healthy pinch of salt. This will eventually come to a simmer, stir every 10-15 minutes. After 45 minutes, taste, adjust seasoning. Depending on all the cooking variables – size of pan, temperature of ingredients, gas or electric, size of the burner – it is entirely possible the beans will need another 15 to 30 minutes. Stop cooking when the ingredients taste smooth and silky, like a Michael Bolton song ‡.

‡ Just seeing if you were still reading; nothing is as smooth and silky as a Michael Bolton song – cook until you are happy with the texture.

Just Add Water