Friday, July 16, 2010

Revisiting Fire

It must have been a move on the part of the early industrialized generations away from barbaric cooking with fire. They wanted to prove they could use more interesting tools. They wanted to use modern devices like cooking stoves and pots that could hold and heat water. I’m chalking it all up to excitement over new-fangled culinary gadgets. They couldn’t really have set out to totally ruin string beans.

The green bean and yellow wax bean varieties we eat today no longer have the fibrous string that gave them their old fashioned name, but they’re still susceptible to destruction by over-boiling. Those mushy, brownish, vegetable-like bits that passed themselves off as green beans in my childhood almost made me swear off vegetables for life. Luckily, my mom grew lots of beans in her garden, so I knew what they were supposed to be.

I’ve been sticking with raw or blanched beans for most recipes, being afraid to overcook them. Recently, however, I came across a couple recipes for roasted green beans. I really enjoy other roasted vegetables and I figured that at high, dry heat, the beans would brown and perhaps crisp, but wouldn’t turn to mush. Since the season for green and yellow beans corresponds with the time I want to use the grill instead of the oven, I took back the fire and converted roasted beans into grilled beans.

I basically used the same techniques and equipment as I do to make grilled potatoes. A pan for the grill is essential, unless you’re really good at keeping beans from falling through grill grates. (You could also cover the rack with foil if you don’t have a pan.) I tossed the beans with olive oil, salt and pepper, grilled them until they were just getting tender and brown, then tossed the hot beans with a bit of lemon juice and fresh parsley. The results were so delicious it was hard to believe the recipe was so simple. And by revisiting primitive, fire-fueled (albeit with propane-fueled fire) cooking, green and yellow beans can be reintroduced to the realm of real food.

Grilled Green or Yellow Beans
I’ve had equal success with both green beans and yellow wax beans.

½ pound green beans or yellow wax beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
¼ teaspoon salt
a few grinds of freshly-ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Preheat a gas or charcoal grill.

2. Place the beans in a large bowl. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat the beans.

3. Place the beans in a pan on the preheated grill. Cover and grill 10 to 15 minutes or until the beans are beginning to brown in places, stirring or tossing occasionally. (You can always taste one to test for doneness.)

4. Remove from the grill and place in a large bowl (the bowl you used before is probably fine). Add lemon juice and parsley and toss to combine.

Makes 2 generous side dish servings.

Other recipes like this one: Grilled Potatoes with Lime-Herb Dipping Sauce, Green Bean and Shiitake Salad with Creamy Wasabi Dressing, Mustard Greens and Green Bean Stir Fry with Peanuts

One year ago: Granola

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