Monday, March 14, 2011

String Beans with Almonds

As a kid, I had a problem with many vegetables- I was a meat and bread kind of kid. There were a few vegetables that I actually did enjoy though- string beans were one of them.

Fresh String Beans Sauteed with Almonds, onion, and Garlic, in Olive Oil
I suppose it helped that we almost always had fresh string beans growing in our garden. I think I started out disliking the limp soggy overcooked mess they call canned string beans (and frozen ones are usually not much better. However, I liked to go in the garden, pop a string bean off the vine an crunch away at it- still raw and about as fresh as you can possibly get. Raw string beans have a nice crunch, and a bright, intense flavor that just doesn't happen when they are cooked to death.

With that in mind- I still prefer my string beans either raw or very lightly cooked. This recipe strikes a good balance- the cooking that does occur is light and preserves most of the things I like about raw string beans, and it adds great flavor on top of it.

Yes, this is the very same string bean side seen in my standing rib roast meal.

String Beans with Almonds

1 lb fresh string beans
1 small onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (minced)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3 tbsp Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

First, you'll need to clean your string beans- snap off the stem end of the bean, and pull out the stringy bit of material that lives in the seam. Repeat until you get through all the beans. You can leave the other fleshy tip intact- in fact it makes the beans look nicer if you do. This is the most time consuming part, so you'll want to start a pot full of boiling water while you do it.

When you finish cleaning the beans, get a large bowl and fill it with ice water so we can shock-cool the beans after they take their hot water bath. Take your beans and drop them into the boiling water for about 60 seconds. This is a quick "blanch" - the beans should be barely cooked when done- you'll notice that the beans will just begin to turn color- when that happens, you are basically done- carefully move the beans to the ice water, which will shock them so they stop cooking, and will help lock in that nice healthy color we've developed. You may have to work in batches if your beans don't all fit in the pot at once.

Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan. When hot, add in the chopped onions, with a little salt and pepper. Saute the onions until transparent, then add in the garlic. Let the onions and garlic cook together for about a minute- make sure the garlic does not burn. Add the slivered almonds, and toss them until coated in the oil. (note- you may need to add more oil- you want to make sure there is enough to give the almonds and the strong beans a nice coating- so use your judgment.

Add the cooled string beans to the pan, and toss until lightly coated with oil. Continue to saute for about 2-3 minutes until the beans are warmed through. I don't mind if they develop a little bit of a sear in spots, but I prefer to get them out of the pan and into the serving dish while they are still firm, so your cooking time here should be short.

Serve in a large bowl, they look great on the table, and make a good side for most typical holiday meals such as ham or turkey. Aside from cleaning the beans, the recipe is very simple, has good clean flavors, and a little bit of toothiness to it. If you have kids, you can get them involved in the cleaning part- and you can encourage them to munch on a raw bean or two- it just might get them involved enough that they'll be willing to eat the finished product at dinner time.

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