Ingredient SpotLight

Because green beans are high in fiber and water, they are low in calories with one-half cup serving furnishing only 22 calories. Green beans are naturally low in sodium. To take advantage of this, flavor green beans with basil, dill, marjoram, mint, oregano, thyme or other herbs. A splash of lemon also works beautifully.

High quality green beans are crisp and tender without scars. Well-shaped pods with small seeds are desirable. Length is unimportant. Green beans should feel pliable and velvety, not hard or tough. Newer varieties of green beans are more tender and do not require as long a cooking period as the older varieties. One pound of crosscut green beans will be ready to serve in 13 to 15 minutes.

Green beans can be held in the refrigerator for several days without loss of quality. Store them in a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss and wilting. Wash green beans just before using, not before refrigerator storage. Wash them in cold water. Let the sand and soil sink to the bottom and lift the beans out. Several washes in clean water may be needed. Trim and cut the beans just before using. Vegetables cut or chopped ahead of time lose nutrients more quickly than whole vegetables. To prepare them, trim the ends and snap or cut into one-inch pieces for cooking or use in salads, or leave them whole for dipping. It is usually not necessary to remove the strings as most varieties of green beans are now "stringless."

Before I leave you for another month, I'm going to share a few of my favorite recipes featuring green beans. Enjoy and I hope they become new favorites with your family as well.

Stir-Fried Green Beans with Pork & Chilies

  • 5 T. vegetable oil
  • 12-16 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
  • 6-9 fresh hot green or red chilies, cut crosswise into very thin slices
  • 10 oz. lean ground pork
  • 1 1/4 lb. green beans, washed and trimmed 1/4-1/2" in length
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. dark brown sugar
  • 3 T. fish sauce or salt to taste
  • 1 1/4 c. water

Put the oil into a wok and place over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the garlic and chilies. Stir and cook until the garlic turns golden. Add the pork, breaking up any lumps and cook until the pork has lost it's raw look. Put in the green beans, paprika, brown sugar, fish sauce and 1 1/4 cups water. Cook, stirring on medium-high heat 8-10 minutes or until the beans are tender and most of the water has been absorbed.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Green Beans with Ground Meat (Fassoulia)

Green Beans with Ground Meat (Fassoulia)

  • 1 lb. ground, lamb, beef or turkey
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. allspice
  • 1 tsp. crushed dried basil
  • 1 tsp. crushed dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 lb. fresh or frozen green beans or Italian pole beans (If using fresh green beans, trim the ends, and cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 3 oz. tomato paste, diluted in 1 cup water or stock

In a nonstick skillet, brown the meat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Drain any excess fat. Place meat in a bowl and set aside. Using the same skillet, sauté the onions in olive oil until soft and slightly brown. Return the meat to the skillet with the onions. Add salt, pepper, allspice, basil, oregano, and garlic. Cover and cook 10 more minutes.

In a large pot, add the green beans. Pour the canned tomatoes, and the diluted tomato paste over the green beans; stir. Add the meat mixture to the green beans. Mix together. Bring to a gentle boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour, or until beans are tender. Add a little more water or stock, as needed. Serve with rice or bulgur pilaf.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 90 minutes

Green Beans, Feta & Pecans

  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 c. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/3 c. white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 c. coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/4 c. diced red onion
  • 1 c. crumbled feta cheese

Cook the green beans in large saucepan of boiling water, about 4 minutes. Drain, immerse in cold water, drain, and pat dry.

Combine the olive oil, dill, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to blend.

Place the beans in a shallow serving dish. Toss with the dressing. Sprinkle with the pecans, red onion and feta, toss and serve.

  • Yields: 4-6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes