Written by Chef Alan Zox, firstname.lastname@example.org Thursday, 21 November 2013 00:00
As we move closer to the holidays, we look forward to the side dishes that come with our favorite entrees. They are no less popular for many of us than the entrees themselves. Some of my favorites include oyster stuffing; tomato pudding; cranberry salsa; poblano or jalapeno cornbread; roasted Brussels sprouts; honey and carrots; mashed potatoes, parsnips and turnips with roasted garlic and buttermilk with, oh yes, Turkey as well. Personally, I love preparing an array of side dishes which invariably fill me up in extraordinarily satisfying ways — often leaving little room for the bird.
Peas and beans are among these side dishes and we have learned that as members of the legume family, peas and beans are among the third largest family in the vegetable kingdom behind the vanilla bean and the sunflower family. Further we have learned that legumes contain many extraordinary attributes such as being high in nutrition as an anti-oxidant, an anti-inflammatory, and as a cardiovascular benefit. Green beans in particular may also be a helpful food for providing us with the mineral silicon which is very important for bone health and for healthy formation of connective tissue. In fact, beans are noteworthy for being among the oldest cultivated plants that have replaced meat and nurtured people throughout history. Further they contain low to moderate GLI numbers (Glycemic Indices) while containing a lot of protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.Green beans, also called string beans, are among my favorite tasting beans. When string beans are immature in growth and particularly tender to eat they are called haricot vert by the French. But American or French, I suspect there isn’t a bean or pea I don’t like although there are so many worldwide one can never be certain. Travels abroad visiting farmer’s markets in Greece, Italy, India, and Mexico reveal beans that may surprise you. Further, the hardy nature of peas and beans helps explain why they have survived throughout time. In fact, farmers are often busy planting over the frigid Christmas holidays which leaves most of us wondering how it’s possible for seeds to remain alive. But they do and come again next season.
Given the appreciation beans hold for people all over the world, I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at recipes enjoyed by others as well as more familiar versions. I have included one from the Middle East, another from the sub-continent India and another that may be more familiar to us. I know them all to be delicious. Enjoy them throughout your holiday season.
Indian Green Beans (Guferati)
4 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seed
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 dried red chile pepper or ½ tsp crushed
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
Ground black pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place the green beans in the pot and cook briefly, removing after 3 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
Heat the oil in a skillet or in the same pot over medium heat. Stir in the mustard seed and garlic and cook until golden brown. Mix in the chile pepper. Place the green beans in the skillet/pot, and season with salt and sugar. Cook and stir 8 minutes or until tender. Season with pepper to serve.
Healthy Vegetarian Green Bean Casserole
1 medium onion, diced
¼ cup onion powder
½ cup chopped white button mushrooms
½ cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk (2 percent fat)
¼ cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 cups cut fresh green beans
2 tablespoons crushed French’s French Fried Onions (or make your own)
Combine the heavy cream, the 2 percent milk, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, diced onion, onion powder, black pepper, soy sauce and green beans in a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Bake at 350° F for 25 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir the bean mixture. Top with the French fried onions. Bake for 5 minutes or until the onions are golden brown. Best of all is this recipe is made without the bacon and sodium in store-bought soup.
Syrian Green Beans
4 cups fresh cut green beans, cut 1-inch long
Sea salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Wash the green beans well and rinse in a colander. Without drying them, place the green beans into a large pot, and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt to taste, and put the lid on the pot. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until beans are cooked to your desired doneness.
Syrians like it cooked until the green beans are turning brownish in color. The idea is not to sauté them, but to let them steam in their own moisture which also retains more nutrients. Add cilantro and garlic to the beans, and continue to cook just until the cilantro has started to wilt. Eat as a main course by scooping up with warm pita bread and humus or serve as a side dish.