Cooking Vegetables: Green Beans

Another popular Thanksgiving dish involves these vegetables, which we addressed back in the day on this blog. We’re re-posting some of our favorites to help you get ready for the holiday.

One of the most common green vegetables found on American tables are green beans. These come in a wide variety of types and an equally wide range of names: French beans, runner beans, string beans and snap beans. Some versions are also called wax beans, but this usually refers to yellow pod beans. Not all green beans are green. They can be purple, golden, red or streaked.

In the garden, there are two basic types of green beans: bush and pole varieties. Bush beans are short plants that need no support. Pole beans usually are climbing vines. There is also a stringless variety.

Shopping. Look for beans that are thin and firm. A blemish here or there is not a deal-breaker since that bit can be easily removed. Depending on the type, color should be a matte green or a bright, shiny pod such as with wax beans. Green beans usually travel reasonably well, but frozen is great out of season. Canned green beans tend to take on a grayish cast that I find unappealing. Also, cooked beans can have a darker, duller color similar to canned.

Preparation. Start with snipping or breaking off the stem ends. Some people also like to snap off the pointy end, which can sometimes be chewy depending on the cooking method. Cutting them into smaller pieces is up to you and the cooking style you intend to use.

Steaming takes about 5 minutes and preserves nearly all of their nutrients.

Microwaving is always a good way to cook vegetables. A bit of water or broth in a covered microwave-safe dish takes just four minutes on high.

Roasting or Sautéing requires just a little olive oil and high heat, stirring occasionally. For a different taste, try using walnut oil or sesame oil.

Battered. Many restaurants will prepare green beans by dunking them in a batter and deep frying. In Japanese restaurants, you will find often green beans prepared tempura style.

Casserole. An American Thanksgiving tradition is green bean casserole, using cooked or canned green beans mixed with condensed cream of mushroom soup and topped with french fried onions. This recipe was developed in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly of the Campbell Soup Company. While no one can dispute the success and popularity of this preparation, I’m a little tired of this particular method.

My personal favorite way to cook green beans is to sauté them in a little olive oil and then top with Parmesan cheese and a dash of Tamari soy sauce.