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Well, of course there’s a green bean festival. Silly me, why did I doubt it? If the folks in Clinton, Montana can build a weekend around deep-fried bull’s testicles, EVERY food must have its rabid fans somewhere, sometime in this country. For green beans, it’s this weekend in Blairsville, Ga. (www.greenbeanfestival.com). Folks will celebrate the verdant bean with a canning contest, a green bean pizza-eating contest, a beauty pageant, food vendors and a farmers market featuring green beans.
I won’t be sorry to miss the green bean pizza. I can think of better things to do with just-picked beans, such as showering them with toasted walnuts, rosemary and crumbled feta cheese. Lately I’ve been cooking green beans almost daily at my own private bean festival. Every afternoon the dog and I saunter to the back forty (actually, the back two acres) and harvest a handful of beans. I planted two kinds this year: haricot vert (very thin green beans) and regular. I forget the variety of the latter, but it’s a bush bean that produced well for me last year.
Next year I intend to plant only haricot vert and yellow wax beans. The haricots vert are so sweet and tender that regular green beans seem oafish in comparison. I love wax beans, too, with their almost translucent flesh and slightly sweet flavor. I’ve been buying them at farmers’ markets, but next year will grow my own.
Meanwhile, unless you have a hankering for green bean pizza, you might want to try a couple of recipes I developed for beans, which are in plenteous supply right now. I haven’t bought a can of green or wax beans in years. Here are two of the reasons why.
- 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, slivered
- 2 tbsp. coarse-chopped walnuts
- 1/4 tsp. finely minced fresh rosemary
- Coarse sea salt
- Fresh-ground pepper
- 3 tbsp. crumbled feta cheese
Plunge beans into a kettle of boiling water and cook until beans just begin to lose their crispness, 1 to 3 minutes depending on thickness and age of beans. Drain and refresh under cold water to set the color. Dry well. Beans may be cooked up to a day in advance and refrigerated.
Heat olive oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat. Stir fry garlic and walnuts until both begin to take on color. Add beans and rosemary and stir fry until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer everything in pan to a small platter and sprinkle with salt, pepper and feta cheese. Makes 4 servings.
SPICY WAX BEANS
- 1 lb. fresh wax beans
- 2 tbsp. oil
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 3 plump cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
- 1 fresh chili pepper (size and heat level at your discretion), cut in slivers
- Salt, pepper
- 1 tbsp. sweet soy sauce (kecap manis, available at Asian stores)
Wash and trim the beans (cut off the hard nub at one end of each bean). Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet. Sauté onions, garlic, ginger and chili pepper over medium-high heat until garlic is golden but not brown. This will flavor the oil. Add beans and mix well to coat the beans with the flavored oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook 2 to 3 minutes, depending on size of beans, until beans are almost tender. Uncover, and stir in soy sauce. Continue stirring until beans are tender and glazed with sauce. Makes 6 servings.
HELP U COOK
Green beans keep better in the refrigerator than many other vegetables. If you store them correctly, they will remain perky and fresh for up to a week. Most important: Do not wash or trim. If they’re grimy, so be it. Place the beans in a plastic bag, close the bag to prevent the beans from drying out, and store in the crisper. Wash and trim the beans when you’re ready to use. The same advice applies to wax beans, which are a genetic variation of green beans.
From Carol Pavlik:
Last year about this time you wrote about great peaches around the Damascus area. We found the place with no help from our wonky GPS but can’t remember all the turns we made. The peaches were heavenly. Can you give me the address again? Thanks.
Dear Carol: Thanks for the reminding me about those wonderful peaches; now if I could just remember the name of that farmer’s market. I was near Guildford Lake, I recall, in Columbiana County, I think. I combed through past newsletters but couldn’t find the mention. Can someone help us?
Saw your truffled popcorn recipe and thought you might like this. A boutique bar in Toronto, Ont. regularly puts out little bowls of white truffle popcorn but it’s a bar not a restaurant so has no real kitchen They make regular plain microwave popcorn. Then sprinkle it with some white truffle oil and a bit of dried Italian seasoning, then toss well to mix — quick and easy and yummy.
Dear Jan: Almost as good as the recipe is the thought of you swanning around boutique bars in Toronto, Canada. Ah, the good life.
From Lara T., Seven Hills:
Is there an easy way to melt the sugar on top of a crème brulee? Every time I try to broil it, it burns in patches.
Dear Lara: I spent years trying to figure this out, and I came up with two methods. The first method is to use a blowtorch. Buy a regular propane torch in a hardware store. The slim propane tank screws into the nozzle gizmo. You don’t need a big tank and hose or anything.
The second method, and the one that produces the most polished result, is to melt the sugar over medium-low heat in a small skillet or saucepan and pour it over the cold custard. This produces a shiny, even caramel topping. The only danger is pouring too much onto the pudding. Use a light hand so that the caramel crust is thin and brittle.