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Green Beans on the Side

From casual to fancy, versatile green beans are always right for the holidays

Fine Cooking Issue 82
Photos: Scott Phillips
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I love green beans for many reasons, but I think it’s their versatility that I appreciate the most. There are so many different ways to prepare them, it’s nearly impossible to get bored. You can boil, sauté, braise, or roast, and depending on the cooking method you choose, you can highlight different delicious qualities of the beans, be it their crisp freshness or their nutty richness. And green beans only get better when they’ve had a chance to mingle with other flavors—so the seasoning possibilities are practically endless

Sautéed green beans lend themselves to layers of flavor. Boiling the beans before sautéing them gives a bright color and crisp texture.

Easy to cook, easy to prep

If all that weren’t enough, here’s another reason to love green beans: They’re an incredibly cooperative ingredient. Prepping them for cooking is as hassle free as it gets—no peeling, coring, dicing, or mincing required. Just give them a good rinse; then snap or slice off the stem ends. Trimming the tails is certainly an option, but I like the natural look of green beans with their tails on.

Boiled green beans are consistently tender throughout; they’re toothsome but not crunchy or fibrous.

Boil, sauté, braise, or roast

The side-dish recipes that follow give you a chance to sample several cooking techniques. For a taste of green beans’ tender, nutty side, try braising them with tomatoes, onions, and spices. To experience beans at their freshest, try the quick boiled Green Beans with Mustard-Tarragon Vinaigrette. If you’re looking for a festive and flavorful dish to serve on a special occasion, I recommend the sautéed beans with cranberries, walnuts, sweet potato, and sage butter—it’s worth the effort. And finally, there’s an easy recipe for roasted green beans with garlic and toasted pine nuts, the perfect thing to pop in the oven for a weeknight supper.

Braised green beans become very tender as they absorb the flavors of the other ingredients in the recipe.
Roasted green beans have a caramelized outside and a fullness of flavor that’s beyond compare.

Flavors that love green beans

You can add pizzazz to green beans with an ingredient (or a few) from this list.

Aromatic, pungent, and tangy: anchovies, capers, fi sh sauce, garlic, hot chiles, shallots, scallions, soy sauce, vinegar

Cured, salty, and cheesy: bacon, prosciutto, pecorino, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago

Herbal: basil, bay, chives, marjoram, parsley, sage, savory, tarragon, thyme

Spicy: black pepper, cumin, coriander, curry powders or pastes, dried chiles, smoked paprika

Nutty: almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, walnuts

Rich and creamy: butter, extra-virgin olive oil, sesame oil, aïoli or mayonnaise, crème fraîche, coconut milk

Fruity: lemon and orange juice & zest, tomatoes (fresh, stewed, sun-dried, or roasted)

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