One of my favorite dishes my mother cooked when we were kids was thick string beans pan-fried with caramelized sweet onions and sprinkled with toasted shaved almonds. It’s home cooking par excellence. Sure the beans were often overcooked and kind of gray but when they were cooked just right they made a squishy sound in your mouth when we bit into them. Wanting to pass the nostalgia of home cooked beans on to the next generation my spouse and I have been cooking them with our 2 ½ year old daughter and she loves to help with the prep work. She calls them “geen beans”.
(French bean and fava bean salad)
I yet have to figure out why green beans and mushrooms are a traditional Thanksgiving dish. Often the beans are drowned in mushroom cream sauce or to be more correct canned mushroom soup. I’m wondering about the tradition since beans are very much in season in the midst of summer which is right about now. I eyed beans today at the farmer’s market and they were beautiful with all their different shads of yellow, green, purple and even black. Plentiful crates of string beans, delicate fava beans, short and flat broad beans, long Asian beans, and skinny haricot verts a.k.a “skinny French beans” were available. I think it’s funny when many of us Americans try to pronounce haricot verts - it must be one of the most mispronounced food words. If you need to brush up on your French, for the next time take this as a guide-line [arigoo-ferr’)
(beans at the market)
(recipe makes four portions)
2 pounds green string beans
1 sweet onion
1 tablespoon sea salt and more to taste
Black pepper grindings from a mill, to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil such as canola or grape seed
¼ cup toasted almond slivers
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon, freshly chopped dill
1. Snip ends off beans.
2. Fill a pot (1-gallon sized) with water and add 1 tablespoon of salt. Bring the water to boil on high heat setting.
3. Prepare a bowl with ice and water.
4. Cook beans in the boiling water 1-2 minutes. Beans should be crunchy when biting into them. Transfer beans with a slotted spoon into the ice water bath to stop the cooking process and to preserve the color.
5. Peel onion then cut in half and then into thin slices.
6. In a skillet heat oil on medium heat setting and add onions season with salt. Cook onions for 15 minutes stirring every five minutes to prevent scorching, add string beans and heat thoroughly.
7. Add almonds and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, add butter and dill then stir.
Chef’s Note: Instead of fresh dill try adding freshly chopped tarragon. It adds a fennel-like note, which has a natural affinity with beans.