Our garden has started producing bushels of beans. They are incredibly good, and in our pursuit to eat what the garden is giving us, we’ve been eating our fair share of beans lately. I picked a bunch this week along with (yet another) pile of tomatoes. The tomatoes just keep coming, and I’m not complaining. I haven’t bought a tomato at the grocery store all summer, and after eating garden tomatoes for so many weeks, I don’t think I’ll be able to return easily to the grocery store varieties come fall.
These green beans couldn’t be easier to prepare. They’re really along the lines of the quando basta approach–I just use what I have and as much as I need.
The real star here is the toasted garlic. It takes these from just-good-beans to holy-cow-I-love-these-beans. If you’ve never toasted garlic before, you must. You absolutely must. I learned the trick from a Benedictine monk who happens to be a wonderful gardener and home cook. Something really magical happens when you toast garlic. It completely changes the flavor from the spicy kick of raw garlic to a sweet, intensely flavorful, but not intensely spicy garlicky goodness. It’s like the magic of roasted garlic, except the garlic is in little toasty chips and shards instead of squishy cloves.
GREEN BEANS with TOASTED GARLIC and TOMATOES
A bunch of green beans
A bunch of tomatoes (grape or cherry tomatoes are best)
3 cloves of garlic (or more if you need more, or fewer if you don’t want so much)
The ingredients couldn’t be simpler.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, any recipe that features the colors of the Italian flag is destined for deliciousness.
First thing you’ll need to do is peel the garlic and slice it pretty thinly. If you want smaller shards of toasted garlic, cut it into smaller bits. If you want whole slices, almost like garlic chips, then just do slices. I did a combination.
Start the garlic in cold oil. This is important. It helps to keep the garlic form burning. Burned garlic is really nasty. It turns bitter and inedible. It ruins recipes. So: put a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan, add the garlic, then set the pan over medium heat.
After a couple of minutes, the garlic will start to bubble. Just let it do its thing. You can stir it around a little or jostle the pan if you think things might be sticking together or sticking to the bottom.
After a few minutes, the garlic will start to get toasty. Don’t fear burning the garlic. Be brave and let it keep getting darker. The more brown, the more crispy.
When the garlic is ready, it will be thoroughly brown. This takes a while–perhaps ten minutes or more–so be patient. But don’t go too far away. The garlic doesn’t need constant attention or stirring, but remain nearby just to make sure things keep going as they should.
You can use this on all sorts of things. It’s especially wonderful for any kind of green vegetable: broccoli, asparagus, steamed spinach, kale.
I used this batch for my green beans, so when the garlic was good and toasty, I tossed my beans into the pan.
These beans had been plucked from the garden mere moments earlier. They needed very little in the way of cooking. Were I doing this with beans that I got at the grocery store–or any beans that were a little tougher–I would blanch them in boiling water or steam them before tossing them in the garlic pan.
I sauteed the beans in the garlic for a couple of minutes, then added the tomatoes.
I didn’t want to make a beans-and-stewed-tomatoes type dish, in the style of the green beans we used to eat at the Greek festival in our old neighborhood in Virginia. Really, I just wanted to cook the tomatoes enough that they just started to crack and pop. I wanted them a little softer. Like the beans, they needed to cook just long enough to not be completely raw.
This said, you can leave out the tomatoes if you prefer. Or if you don’t have any. Or if your garden has stopped producing tomatoes and you haven’t yet reconciled yourself to grocery store tomatoes.
I let everything cook for 3-5 minutes, and it was done. The beans were still crisp but not raw, the tomatoes were just barely soft, and the garlic was scattered over everything in crunchy little shards of deliciousness. It’s a perfect side dish for summer cooking, but it really works any time of the year. We ate these with a batch of goulash I had in the slow cooker. The week before, we ate them with chicken kabobs and watermelon. Come late November, we’ll be eating them with Turkey. Okay, so we won’t be eating our garden beans anymore by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, but you see my point. These are great, and versatile.