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"We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie." David Mamet

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Exhibit A: Greenbeans

My Mom loved a good discussion almost as much as she liked designer shoes. And although there was plenty of passionate discourse in her kitchen, when it came to cooking vegetables she had the final word.

She was our master chef and, as much as she complimented us on our abilities, we always gratefully accepted our roles as sous chefs.

Mom held by several laws in her kitchen and in life. One was, if you look good, you feel better. This theory has proved true especially as it relates to my hair. It's also why I sometimes apply lipstick while cleaning the bathroom.

The food corollary goes like this:  if it looks beautiful, it tastes better. My sister Karren, a wonderful cook, is a master at this finishing touch. 
Exhibit A : green beans.

Green beans let you know they're nearing finish by blooming into a gorgeous green color. Once this happens, start nibbling. Green beans are done when they pass from crunchy into juicy, with a welcoming al dente give.

A few key pieces of advice on cooking green beans:
  1. Believing that you can keep green beans warm on a low temperature for more than 5 minutes is magical thinking.
  2. You can prepare green beans well in advance, and reheat quickly just before serving.
  3. Singing "Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah" helps relieve the tedium of snapping off the ends of the beans. The more people singing, the better.
To make beautifully cooked green beans the way Jacqueline taught us, you will need:
- large pot
- large skillet
- colander
- tongs (for testing beans in boiling water)
- bowl full of very icy water

You will also need:
- 1 lb green beans
- 2-4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- red pepper flakes (optional, to taste)
- salt to taste
- toasted almond slices (optional)
- lemon (optional
Rinse and snap off the curly strings at the end of green beans. Add enough water to cover the beans and bring to a boil. Add green beans and return to a slow boil, cooking til al dente, about 10-12 minutes. Beans should be just past bright green, juicy, and with a lovely mellow flavor. Drain into collander, then into bowl of ice water. This sets flavor and provents unforeseen cooking.
I've been known to make a nice snack of these freshly cooked cuties, adding just a little salt and pepper. But if you want to be a little fancier:

Heat the skillet to medium-high and add 2 tablespoons butter til frothy. Sautee 2 cloves garlic minced til golden - do not allow to burn. Shake in some red pepper flakes, if you so please. Layer rounds of lemon around the beans, like a constellation of suns. Squeeze juice of half a lemon into the sauce and toss with the cooked beans. 

Another great finish: heat butter in skillet til frothy and add a cup of slivered almonds until golden. Sprinkle with salt. Spoon the mixture over the cooked green beans and serve with a big smile, because you are just about to make a table full of people very happy.

Beautiful photograph thanks to organic gardening mail order company,

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