If you’ve ever tasted fresh green beans from a local farmers’ market, simply prepared—without processed foodstuffs mixed in—you’ll know what I mean. I will admit: I wasn’t a big fan of green beans, myself. They always seemed like the obligatory vegetable de rigeur at any event-type dinner (weddings, work functions, black tie)—a few forlorn pods that tasted as plain and bland as they looked. But buying fresh green beans—you may see them labeled as “string beans” or “snap beans”—and preparing them, myself, was a tasty revelation.
It starts with the quality of the green beans. When sifting through loose beans, you want to look for firm, brightly colored green beans that are smooth to the touch, without spots or bruises. Some green beans may actually contain a “string”, a fibrous strand, running down the center of the pod: be sure to remove this before cooking. The only time I ended up with a true “string” bean was when I bought a package of organic green beans from the health food store.
One cup of cooked green beans is a nice source of Vitamin K1 (for healthy blood clotting), Vitamin C, Vitamin A, B vitamins, including folate, and fiber. You’ll also get a serving of antioxidants—lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene—that help protect eye health. My sister Cynthia goes wild for this green bean dish—she really loves it! But it has always been a hit with anyone who has ever had it.
Packaged store-bought green beans are typically accessible all year long. I tend to make this more during the summer and fall months when I can get fresh beans. And if waxed yellow beans are available, I like to throw them into the mix. It’s a fast and easy weeknight vegetable dish as well. Little ones can help by snapping off the ends of the beans. Wash the beans well, throw into a steamer for about 15 minutes, or until tender. You can prepare the vinaigrette while they’re steaming.
For a head start, make the beans in advance, say: you can serve at room temperature (my preference) or, it it’s been in the refrigerator, rewarm gently in the oven. They’re also a yummy complement to a broccoli and shishito pepper frittata!
Herbed Green Beans with a Lemon-Garlic Vinaigrette
Serves 4 to 6
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, pulp strained
1/4 cup quality, extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs: tarragon, sage, parsley, thyme, basil or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and rinsed well (OR a combination of 3/4 pound green beans and 3/4 pound yellow waxed beans)
I add enough water for steaming in my Dutch oven, bringing it to a boil. Place a collapsible steamer in the Dutch oven. Add the green beans. Cover. Lower heat to medium and steam until the beans are just tender, about 15 to 17 minutes. Check: it may take more or less time, depending on your stove. (Another option: If you have a wok… Place a round wire rack in the wok; add water, bringing it to a boil. Set a Pyrex glass pie plate with the beans on the rack to steam over medium heat. Steam the beans until just tender, about 15 to 17 minutes.)
While the beans are steaming….
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, fresh chopped herbs, garlic, Celtic sea salt and pepper. Set aside. Once the beans have finished cooking, place in a large bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over the beans while still warm and toss to thoroughly coat. Serve at room temperature.