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Feb 15, 2005 07:44 AM

How to kick gren beans up a notch

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Tell me your secrets

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  1. Judy Rodgers' recipe in her The Zuni Cafe Cookbook for Italian-style slow-cooked romano beans is immortal. If flat Italian/roman beans are unavailable, you can use sturdy pole-type green beans (but not tender little green beans).

    Basically, you take a couple of pounds of trimmed beans, coat them in a bit of olive oil, add some salt and crushed red pepper flakes, and put them in a heavy covered pot over very low heat for a couple of hours or more, turning them a few times.

    Couldn't be easier and more delicious.

    What happens is that the heat slowly penetrates the beans and they gradually release their moisture and cook in it. It takes a long time for this process to transform the beans; for the first 90 minutes, it may look like nothing is really happening. Patience is key; do not try to speed it up, or you won't find the Grail. Other than needing patience, the recipe is utterly effortless.

    The beans turn an olive color: this is not about bright green crunchy beans tasting of chlorophyll. Rather, it is about developing a deep, rich flavor characteristic of beans.


    4 Replies
    1. re: Karl S.

      I second this approach. I grew up eating beans cooked this way, except that pork fat of some sort (bacon slices or butt-end of a ham)generally substituted for the olive oil.

      When I left home, I cooked only crunchy green beans, with my favorites being tossed with olive oil and lemon juice or briefly sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with parmegiano.

      Tried the long-cooking method again just last summer with really fresh flat beans. They are heavenly!

      1. re: Karl S.

        Do you think it would work in a crock pot on low?

        1. re: Bobfrmia

          I would think so, but I don't think you'd want to let them sit all day. I'd try it on a day where I could check them after a couple of hours and then each hour or so thereafter.

        2. re: Karl S.

          I have used this method with romano beans from the farmers market and it is really good. Another similar method is to stew them with bacon or pancetta and tomatoes. You cut up some bacon and cook until crisp in a saute pan, then remove the bacon, leaving some grease in there. Add a small chopped onion and cook in the bacon grease until softenened and just starting to turn brown. Then stir in the romato beans and about a cup or a cup and a half of chopped tomatoes (if in season, or use canned when not in season). Add cold water to come just below the level of the beans, increase heat to high and bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer until the beans are tender, about 20 or 25 minutes, then take off the cover and increase the heat to boil off the excess cooking liquid, leaving as much "sauce" as you want. Add back the bacon and some chopped parsley, taste for seasoning and you're done! They are great served hot or just warm. Sometimes I add a pinch of sugar and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and simmer for just a minute before turning off the heat.

          The bacon is optional if you are a vegetarian but it adds a nice smoky depth of flavor.

        3. Toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced garlic on a cookie sheet. Roast them in the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes, or until they are a bit shriveled with brown spots, stirring once or twice.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Jess

            I do this all the time and people are always amazed at how good they are. I don't even use garlic, though.

            1. re: Jess

              I do this with so many vegtables, but I don't use garlic and rather than plain salt I use a gray sea salt with herbs de provence.

            2. I clean and prep them.
              Then team them for a few minutes with a small amount of oil, water, and soy sauce.

              Once they are gently steamed I toss with a combination of soy sauce (I prefer low sodium), water, lemon/lime juice, EVOO, powdered ginger, wasabi, and scallions. I have no idea the amounts - just a small amount of wasabi and ginger go along way. Tasting to get the right combo is half the fun.

              TIP - Add the oil last because it is very hard to taste the other ingredients.

              1. Over Thanksgiving I tossed my just-barely-steamed green beans with a mixture of low-fat sour cream (low fat has a better texture for this job), mustard and a bit of lemon juice - they were the first thing to go!

                1. I boil or steam them until done -- I like them very tender -- and then heat up some butter, toast a handful of slivered almonds in it, add lemon juice and toss the beans in the mixture. It is fantastic! Also you can skip the lemon juice and use mushrooms instead of slivered almonds.