Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where Have You Bean All My Life?

If you're like me, when you think of greens, beans aren't the first things that pop into your mind. But I'm about to change that!

While all other beans are allowed to mature before being dried, green beans, also called string beans, are picked while still young and tender, when the inner beans have just begun to form. That's what makes them edible raw or slightly cooked, pods and all.  Green beans have recently been shown to have very strong anti-oxidant capacity. We can see the presence of highly concentrated chlorophyll in the beautiful, bright green color of string beans, but what we can't see is the other good stuff  - lutein, beta-carotene, vilaxanthin and neoxanthin. These are nutrients we normally associate with red and orange produce like carrots and tomatoes. Like I always say, don't judge a book by its cover.

Sadly, we are used to seeing this gorgeously green plant overcooked to a dull khaki color, with a limp and unappetizing mouth feel. If used at all, green beans are a way to fill space on a plate, and rarely take the spotlight as the stars that they really are! Here's a recipe that I make at least once a week, by popular request. It can be eaten warm, but I think it's best served chilled. I make a big batch and put it in the refrigerator for a quick snack or a scrumptious side dish. It sure beats the heck out of potato chips, both for flavor and nutrition. 

Out of This World Green Beans
(with raw option)

1/2 lb fresh green beans, washed
3 cloves fresh garlic
3 Tablespoons raw sesame seeds
chili paste to taste
3 Tablespoons sesame oil
Sea salt to taste

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add the green beans and blanche until bright green. This should take no more than 3-5 minutes. We want to bring out the color and the crunch in the beans, so be careful not to overcook. Drain and set aside.

If you choose to make a raw recipe, skip the above step and, instead, carefully wash the green beans. Set aside.

Grind the sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle. You can find these anywhere, ranging in price from under $10 to over $100. No need to get fancy, just get one that you like and that fits your budget. You don't need to crush all the seeds, just a lot of them. So it will resemble a coarse powder with some seeds still intact. Empty this into a big bowl. Add garlic to the mortar and top with some sea salt. The salt helps break down the consistency of the garlic, as well as adding flavor to the dish. Grind the garlic with the pestle until it becomes a paste. Add the garlic to the sesame in the bowl. Top it off with your choice of chili paste and the sesame oil and mix well. Transfer the drained green beans to the bowl and carefully work it around with a large wooden spoon to coat the beans with the sesame mixture.

And you're done! The next time you're craving a savory snack, this delicious and nutritious snack will be as close as your refrigerator.

For more variety, try this recipe with asparagus or broccoli!

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