There is nothing better than garden fresh green beans. Even when my parents abandoned their garden beds for ten years, they still had their green bean “tee-pees” every summer. My father is rather picky about his beans. They must snap and break when you bend them, not wiggle around like a rubber band. That’s how you know they’re fresh. I have a couple rows of green beans this year, planted from seed right after I pulled out the fava beans and spring peas. (BTW, if you grow green beans from seed, it helps to soak the beans over night in water before planting them, or place them between two layers of wet paper towels for a couple of days, so they germinate first.) They like heat, and at least in our part of the world, come into their own in August and September. When I left for vacation the plants were only a foot high, two weeks later they are climbing over the fence.
So far I’ve pulled off a total of one mighty green bean, but my parents got started on their bean teepee a few weeks before I did, so their beans are now ripe for picking. Zucchini can sometimes wear me out, if I have to eat it every. single. day. But green beans? I can eat a pound all on my own (as Hank can attest, as I ate almost the whole batch of these) and never get tired of them.
Here’s the trick with green beans. Usually we boil them. If you boil them for longer than 7 minutes, they’ll turn a brownish olive color. It’s just a chemical reality. Tough old beans will take longer than 7 minutes to cook to tenderness, so no matter what you do, they’ll be off color by the time you eat them. Fresh, young beans though? They should cook quickly enough so they’ll still have that vibrant green color when cooked. This recipe is a simple preparation in which the beans are first boiled, then sautéed very quickly in bacon fat, then tossed with chopped bacon and sprinkled with black pepper. Easy and absolutely delicious. At the very end you sprinkle on some vinegar or lemon juice. Acid is another thing that will turn green beans from green to brown, so add the vinegar just before serving.
Not all green beans are alike. The longer the bean was on the vine, the tougher it can be. Fresh, young beans should be able to cook up perfectly well in less than 6 minutes. Tough old beans, you'll have to cook a lot longer to get them tender. Look for beans that easily snap in half when you bend them.
- 1 pound fresh green beans, ends snipped off and discarded, extra long beans, cut in half if you want
- 2-3 slices of bacon
- Black pepper
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice or cider or red wine vinegar
1 Heat a pot of salted water to a rolling boil (1 Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water). Add the green beans and boil them for 4-5 minutes, until just tender enough to eat (you may have to cook longer depending on the particular green beans you have). Drain and set aside.
2 While the water is heating up to boil the beans, slowly cook the bacon until crispy in a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Use a slotted spoon or a fork to remove the bacon from the pan. Set the bacon on paper towels to sop up the excess fat. You should have about one tablespoon of fat left in the pan. Pour off any fat beyond 1 tablespoon. (Do not pour the fat down the drain or you'll stop up your drain.) If you have much less fat than a tablespoon left in the pan, add a little olive oil or butter to the pan.
3 Once the green beans are cooked, sauté them over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes in the bacon fat. Dice the bacon and add to the pan and sauté another minute. Put the beans and bacon into a large serving bowl and sprinkle generously with freshly ground black pepper. Toss with lemon juice or vinegar and serve at once.