Beans are good for you, so eat up. They contain fibre along with folate and Vitamins A and C and some of the B group, giving them a good antioxidant rating. But buy local, and buy fresh, to ensure you get all their goodness.
Choose beans with firm undamaged tips, and beware of out of season beans sold in tinted plastic bags – it’s a scam to enhance their green colour. Don’t you hate that!
To keep beans bright and green, plunge them into a saucepan of gently-boiling, lightly-salted water and cook with the lid off. This shortens the cooking time and helps set the colour. Cooking greens such as beans with the lid on can cause the vegetables to discolour. Vegetable acids which would normally be driven off in the steam coming off the boiling water, collect on the inside of the lid, dripping back into the vegetables, causing discolouration. After cooking beans, drain immediately. Cooking can be halted by splashing with a cup or two of cold water, (called refreshing). This is useful when adding beans to salads because it helps them retain crunch and brightness. Plunging them into an icy bath after draining is even better because it cools them very quickly and locks in the green colour. It’s not necessary to refresh beans if they are to be served immediately, and in fact, if the beans are to be tossed with oil or butter, it’s undesirable as it cools the beans preventing them from taking up the lovely flavours of the butter or oil. If you wish to cook beans ahead, then to reheat them, refresh after cooking as described, dry them off on paper towels, then reheat gently in a little oil or butter until they’re piping hot.
Green beans love:
- Olive oil, hazelnut oil, coconut oil, butter, mayonnaise, aioli
- Garlic, onions, shallots, spring onions
- Nutmeg, cumin, ginger and other Indian spices
- Freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, soy sauce and mustard
- Thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage, marjoram, coriander and lemon zest
- Other vegetables, including new potatoes, asparagus, peas, broad beans
- Almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews
- Pesto, parmesan and prosciutto
- Bacon, ham, smoked chicken and chorizo
If beans appear stringy, quickly run a potato peeler down the sides of the beans. To keep beans fresh, keep them in an unsealed plastic bag in the fridge. Store away from ethylene-producing fruits such as melons, passionfruit, stone fruit, pears, avocados and kiwifruit, because ethylene hastens their demise! Just a word about butter beans … although they are not green (they are yellow), small ones are best, and they tend to dry and become tough more quickly than other beans, so use them as soon after purchase as possible. Finally, if you don’t grow your own beans, the best place to find fresh beans is in summer at farmers’ markets.
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Main photography Aaron McLean http://www.aaronmclean.com