Eat Your… Green Beans

Green Bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)

It’s mid-summer and green beans are all over the farmer’s market! Go get some while they’re good. Make sure to pick bright green ones, medium size, that are firm and have no blemishes. They should snap easily. Eat them within 48 hours for best flavor and texture.

Did you know that in 1936, Lake City, South Carolina had the largest bean market in the world? The city recently bought the market and is planning to renovate it, causing some citizens to wonder why their taxes are being used to build a “Green Bean Museum”.

Origin and History

Common green beans, which originated in the Andes Mountains at least 2,000 years ago, comprise another part of the “Three Sisters” triad that I talked about in the article on squash. They were introduced to Europe when Columbus returned from his second voyage to the New World in 1493. Today, more than 500 different cultivars exist which contain variations in seed size, pod shapes, texture, and color.

Green Bean Casserole – From Scratch

Traditionally, dating back at least to the invention of Durkee French Fried Onions and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, there has been the Green Bean Casserole. It’s a staple at holiday dinners here in the South, and you either love it or you hate it.

No matter if you’re a lover or a hater, this recipe is for you. It’s from scratch — and it is delicious! Or as my girlfriend said: “Oh hell yeah. This shit is GOOD!”

Ingredients

1 lb fresh green beans, snapped into 2-3 inch pieces
1 tsp salt
2 quarts boiling water

1/2 lb fresh button or baby portabella mushrooms, chunked
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 medium yellow onion
1 cup milk
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups vegetable oil (for frying)

2 slices whole wheat bread, torn into several pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Salt
Pepper
Cayenne pepper

[* If you want it dairy-free (vegan), substitute Silk brand soy creamer for the heavy cream and Earth Balance brand buttery spread for the butter. This is what I did, and it came out great.]

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 400 F.

2) Boil green beans in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and place into cold water (preferably iced) to cool and prevent further cooking. Save the saucepan you used for boiling the beans for step #4.

3) Slice the onion into thin (1/8″) slices and soak in milk for 5 minutes. Drain, coat with flour, and deep fry at 375 F until golden brown. Transfer to paper towel or newspaper.

4) Tear apart mushrooms into 1/2″ chunks (tearing is important since it gives the mushrooms texture — cutting them is not recommended). Melt the butter in the saucepan, then add the mushrooms, garlic, and salt & pepper to taste. Stir, cooking on medium-low until the mushrooms begin to give off their liquid, at least 5 minutes.

Now stir in the flour and optional nutritional yeast and cook for 1 more minute. Finally, add the vegetable stock, stir for 20 seconds, then add the heavy cream. Simmer for 10 more minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper as needed. Add the beans back to the pot, mix well, and let sit to absorb flavors while you prepare step #5.

5) Combine whole wheat bread and melted butter in a food processor and pulse 5-10 times until crumbly.

6) Transfer bean/mushroom mixture to a buttered 2 qt casserole dish (I prefer the large oval shape to maximize surface area). Sprinkle bread crumb mix and fried onions evenly over the top. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 F.

7) Enjoy!

Green Bean Casserole


For Next Week

Next week will not revolve around any one particular recipe. Rather, I am going to talk about several kinds of rice and the different dishes that they can be used for.

See you next week!

. . . . .


Now Playing: Glee by Bran Van 3000.


Ben is a graduate student at NCSU studying Crop Science with an emphasis on Sustainable Agriculture. Official foodie credentials are non-existent, other than the fact that he has been cooking for himself since he was 12 years old. You can find his personal blog at bengarland.com, photos and videos at bengarland’s Flickr photostream, and his plans for a self-constructed cob house and organic farm over at Our Farm Adventure (still a very new work in progress).