Every year, I fall in love with a new vegetable. Perhaps I am a romantic at heart. It’s possible. Last year, I was fascinated by Brussels sprouts. This year it is green beans. They seem to be a mainstay in every garden. Easy to grow, but no one ever is overly excited about actually eating green beans. Let’s face it, green beans suffer from neglect. They are boiled or steamed. Their lovely green hue drained of its vibrancy. Often never seasoned. Basically, they are an afterthought. Shoved limply into the shadow of whatever main dish holds the spotlight. It’s a tragedy, especially since green beans have serious promise.
After a summer of eating a variety of cuisines, I was inspired most by Malaysian food. A multi-cultural cuisine with strong influences from Chinese, Thai and even Indian foods, every Malaysian dish I raved about highlighted the beauty of green beans. My favourite dishes followed the same formula, green beans played a central role, the tussle of a few bold ancillary flavours, like sambal oelek and kachap manis (Indonesian soy sauce), and the injection of heat.
In my own kitchen, I usually pan-fry green beans with garlic and soy sauce, but recently I have been roasting almost every vegetable possible. I have discovered that roasting and the addition of uplifting flavours have the ability to makeover green beans from ho-hum to adulation. Rather than being forced to eat green beans, this side dish will have you wanting second helpings.
First things first, the beans need to be fresh, fragrant, and snappy. Unfortunately, frozen just won’t cut it. Don’t despair, they seem to be available in the fresh form, year-round.
Next is coaxing out the flavours.
Green beans are no exception. Roasting creates perfection. It wheedles out the gentle sweetness of green beans that are hiding inside and creates crisp, caramelized, nearly-burnt edges.
Even better is the low maintenance approach to roasting. Something that I gravitate towards. There’s little effort involved to create all the magic. It works like this: toss fresh green beans with a little bit of olive oil and seasonings (these vary on my mood and what is on hand). Next, a blisteringly hot oven takes care of the green beans, while I focus on the getting the rest of the meal ready.
Note, initially it will look like you have way too many beans. Keep in mind that they really shrivel up when you roast them and it won’t seem like nearly as many when you are done. The result is something that turns out delicious.
I decided to coat the beans with balsamic vinegar and honey, when reduced in the oven, intensifies in flavour. Better yet, the combination creates a glossy, dark brown glaze. When reduced in the oven and intensified the flavour. The ingenious idea to grace slender beans with beneficial ginger and garlic, adds a zing of antioxidants.
After testing this a few times, I can tell you that I adore these beans. They are a little tangy and a teensy bit sweet with a nice crunch. Note: I like to roast the beans just long enough to get a few caramelized edges without sacrificing the toothsome nature. I do not recommend roasting any longer, no one wants limp vegetables, crisp al dente works best.
Quick-Roasted Green Beans
1 pound fresh green beans, stemmed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ inch piece of ginger, grated
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon cumin, ground
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste
2 tablespoons honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Put a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven to preheat at the same time. In a large bowl toss the beans with the olive oil, garlic, ginger, red onion, cumin, garam masala, lemon zest/juice, vinegar, abd honey. Remove the pan from the oven, place a sheet of parchment paper on baking tray. Spread the beans in a single layer on the hot baking sheet and bake for 2 minutes. Shake the pan to reposition the beans. Cook the beans until they begin to brown and just start to shrivel, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Be careful not to overcook; you may want to remove smaller beans earlier, as they are done. Serve hot or at room temperature. Refrigerate any leftovers. Note: This recipe would also be delicious prepared with fresh asparagus or baby bok choy.