21 July 2006

35. Green Beans

Dear green beans,

I love you. According to my mom, I always have — when I was a little kid, our garden never seemed to produce you, but I always seemed to make happy little crunching noises when I came back from picking you only to report that I hadn't found anything. Now that I have a garden of my very own, I can't seem to plant enough of you to bring in more than a handful at a time, but I still make those happy little crunching noises, so it's all good.

When I do manage to bring you inside, sometimes I cook you like my mom did, and my grandmother (although I usually make you a little crunchy for Oma's taste) — simple boiling or steaming. I'm also a big fan of garlicky green beans, sautéed in olive oil or butter, and often a splash of balsamic vinegar as well, which is what led me to the preparation I can't seem to stop snacking on tonight.

To start, we got 1 1/2 pounds of you in our CSA box this week --- oh darn. After much snacking, I think we had a pound left when I got around to cooking this afternoon, and because I was feeling lazy I skipped the boiling/steaming step in favor of a mix of sautéing and steaming, like so:

After I got the beans and garlic cleaned, I heated a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a pan big enough to hold all the beans. I added the garlic and cooked that until it foamed and the smell reminded me why garlic, like David Bowie and purring cats, is proof that the universe can't be all bad. Next I added a splash of water and the green beans, lowering the heat as soon as I saw the water boil. I let everything cook for a total of maybe four minutes, stirring occasionally and testing the beans frequently for doneness (by eating them, of course; quality control is Job One!) At the end of this arduous task, the beans were bright green, and I added a splash (a few tablespoons) of balsamic vinegar which dulled their color somewhat but the deliciousness gained more than justified the sacrifice in appearance. I let everything cook for another minute, so the beans could absorb a bit of the vinegar, then lifted them out of the pan into a bowl, only to discover that quite a bit of watery, garlicky vinegar was left in the pan. It seemed a shame to let it go to waste, so I did a trick that makes mediocre balsamic taste much better, and left it cooking on the stove while I pondered how to turn it into a sauce, which I eventually did by adding maybe two tablespoons of honey and a little more water and letting the whole mess boil and thicken into a stickily delicious glaze. The glaze was done after another minute or two, after which I returned the beans to the pan, where a quick toss coated them nicely (and got the pan pretty clean, too, although I still hurried it over to the sink to soak after I finished putting the beans back in their serving bowl).

I call this latest incarnation of you Garlicky Green Beans in Balsamic-Honey Glaze, and I'm thinking of eating it with a garnish of toasted nuts, perhaps on a bed of salad greens, maybe even as part of a salade Niçoise if I'm feeling fancy later. I'm also thinking it might be time for me to plant more of you in my garden, because making happy little crunching noises while I pull weeds and tie up tomatoes ranks right up there with David Bowie.

Thanks for everything, green beans. You're great.


Published 21 July 2006; last edited 9 September 2006. Title abridged 1 December 2011.