Worth the Bother Green Beans


I'm not one of these people who loves to cook. I like it just fine, and I've reached a point where I'm able to please my own palate most of the time, which is good because the place where I currently live is something of a culinary wasteland. But for me, the real pleasure afforded by cooking occurs at the table after the fact, not at the stove while you're doing it.

I rarely cook something that requires a lot of planning or preparation. There are really only two situations in which I do: if I'm feeding guests, or if I am making huge batches of some elaborate meal or dish which I can then freeze in individual servings, so that later, I can just microwave it and have a meal ready. I don't want more than 20 minutes to elapse from the moment when I decide I'm hungry enough to make a meal, and the point at which I sit down to eat it. I also don't want to wash too many dishes afterwards.

By those standards, this recipe for green beans should be something I don't make--and truth be told, I rarely make it. It's not that it's hard; it just takes a lot of time to cut up all the beans, and it involves dirtying a lot of dishes. But it's so good that I go ahead and do it anyway from time to time.

I will say that these beans are really good left over and chilled--if you can make enough to have them left over. When I make them for guests, there are never any leftovers--and when I make them for myself, well, I still manage to eat a lot of them.

A mess of green beans
1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil (you know, enough to coat the pan but not so much things get oily)
two cloves garlic, minced
fresh lemon
fresh cracked pepper
Parmesan cheese

Wash the green beans and cut them into bite-sized pieces. (That's my least favorite part. I don't know why I find it so annoying to cut up scores of green beans, but I do.) Put them in a steamer and steam long enough that they're hot but not so long that they get tender--they should still be crisp. (In other words, three or four minutes after water begins to boil--certainly not more than five.) Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add minced garlic and fry for about 30 seconds--just until oil becomes fragrant. Dump in green beans and saute until coated with the garlicky oil. Turn off heat and squeeze a tablespoon or so of fresh lemon onto the beans. Then season with salt and pepper, and, as a final step, add a liberal dose of grated parmesan--do this last when pan is still very hot but no longer on an active flame, so the cheese doesn't get gummy.

I've tried cooking the beans entirely in the skillet, but they get too oily. I've tried just adding a little garlic infused olive oil after steaming them and not sauteing them, but the flavor isn't the same, and the cheese doesn't melt as well if you don't stir it into a hot pan.

So I do it the way I've discovered works well, and deal with the fact that I have all these pots and pans to wash just for one vegetable dish, because as I said, the real pleasure afforded by cooking occurs at the table, and for that, you have to sacrifice from time to time.


As soon as I'm finished writing for the day I'm going to go out and get some green beans and make this.

Suggestion (maybe useless, maybe not)

1. Steam veg in pan by bringing a small amount of water to boil in pan. Drain and plonk veg into dish you'll be serving them in.
2. Dry pan and heat oil, proceed as per your recipe...
3. Voila! 2 dishes (max) messy.
4. I hate washing loads of dishes, too.

Hi Juti--hope they were indeed worth the bother for you.

hm-uk--if you put the beans directly in the water, you haven't steamed them; you've boiled them, which results in a different taste, texture and nutritional content. Steam, believe it or not, is hotter than boiling water, so steamed vegetables not only get less mushy than boiled vegetables, they cook faster. And when boiled vegetables take on the water that makes them mushy, they lose flavor, color and LOTS of their nutritional value. All that goes into the water.

While boiling the vegetables might cut out one pan, it doesn't do anything about the cutting board and containers involved in preparing the beans. Like I said, trimming the beans is my least favorite part.

Oh. And I just realized. You've added a dish in that you have to get something to drain the veggies with. Steamers are self-draining. So really, not much of a gain.

I do appreciate your attempt to help me with my dishwashing, though. It's a chore I really would like to do less of.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on July 4, 2008 7:58 AM.

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