Beans, Beans, they’re good for your heart…

Sorry, couldn’t resist…

OK very first question for the chef blog, and here we go:

“This week it’s a bean glut if you are eating locally here in Northern Minnesota. Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members and customers at our market stand will find lots of just-picked green, purple, and striped fresh beans available.

Of course, the first green beans of the season deserve just steaming with some butter on top, but after that—what to do with pounds of them? How about some suggestions for all of us snap-bean-lovin’ locavores? Maybe some ways to spice them up a bit? We know that’s right up your line!”

Indeed, it IS!

Beans aren’t just fun to look at, they’re great food and can take on a bunch of roles in a meal, from the common to the exotic. As the question notes, one thing you MUST do is present them as plainly as possible when they’re at the height of freshness:

Ever heard of an amuse bouche? This is a little one or two bite gourmet introduction to a meal, and really, is also a pretty good introduction of the chef: If you’re serving a certain nationality, announce, (Or maybe just hint at), what is to come: Here’s a quick and easy one to try with any of the varieties the gang has ready right now:

Beans Provencal

Choose 2 or 3 nice beans for each guest, cut the ends off leaving roughly even lengths of bean.

Core, seed and dice a ripe tomato

Mince about 3 tablespoons of onion or shallot.

Prepare a dressing of the following:
1 tblspn white wine vinegar
2 tblspn olive oil
1 tblspn grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tspn basil
1/4 tspn thyme
small garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Steam beans until just al dente, (Crisp-tender, if you will).

Combine beans, tomato and onion in a bowl and pour the dressing over them, toss everything to incorporate, serve right away.

If you want to be a bit fancy, tie 2 or 3 beans together with a piece of chive and serve on a small plate with a basil leaf – Looks great, tastes better!

OK, enough of the small stuff; part of the question was “what to do with pounds of them?” Monica’s not here right now, but I know, KNOW that if I didn’t pass this along, she’d kill me…

Any Bloody Mary fans out there? Thought so… Well, if you like those and/or pickled stuff, (And who doesn’t?) then you MUST make pickled beans! They’re the cat’s meow in a Bloody Mary and darn fine munching any other time. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for making your own.

Quick Pickled Beans:

1 lb whole beans, ends cut off and rinsed.
1 red bell pepper, veined and seeded and cut into strips
2 cloves of garlic, cut into quarters
2 bay leaves
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups white wine
2 cups water
2 tbspns sugar
2 tbspns salt
2 tbspns whole coriander seed
2 tbspns whole mustard seed
2 tbspns whole pepper seed

Put beans, pepper strips, garlic and bay leaves in a non-metallic bowl large enough to hold that and the liquid you’re gonna use.

Put everything else in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, stir until salt and sugar dissolve. reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Pour the mixture over the beans and make sure they are completely covered; if they’re not, add water until they is!

Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 48 hours. Beans will keep, refrigerated, up to a week. If you want or need longer than that, then it is canning time, and that is a good thing! Pickled beans can be canned via hot water bath, but if you’re gonna do fresh beans, (Which you really SHOULD do), you’ll need to pressure can them – We’ll talk more about canning towards the fall, unless questions come up sooner.

Now another part of the questions was, “Maybe some ways to spice them up a bit?” and pickled beans is a GREAT way to do just that. Our gardener pals have some fantastic hot peppers as well, you know, (Anybody who was around for my roasted corn pico de gallo the other week knows I ain’t lyin’…). Just take a couple of your favorite hot peppers, (From 1 to 4 per batch, depending on the pepper and your tolerance for heat), and add that to the mix and bingo, you got spicy pickled beans! Seriously though, if it’s habaneros, 1 is gonna do it; jalapenos, you could get away with 3 or so, but TEST THEIR HEAT BEFORE YOU COOK – Ain’t no fun making great stuff that’s too hit for anybody to eat, right?

Last offering for beans is a southwestern take on the classic American Three Bean Salad, tweaked for string beans – This is a great summer cook out dish and always a hit at a potluck. The slight smokiness of the paprika and the tang of fresh cilantro are a real treat!

Eben’s Southwestern Three Bean Salad

1 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed.
1 15 oz. can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
1/2 pound of string bean of your choice, steamed al dente
2 stalks of celery, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh, finely chopped cilantro
Optional: 1 ear roasted corn, kernels cut off the cob
Optional: 1 medium jalapeno pepper, chopped fine

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tspn smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix beans, celery, onion, and cilantro and corn

In a separate bowl, mix everything else together and whisk to incorporate; add the dressing to the bean mixture and toss to coat. Serve chilled.

OK, that’s all for now – Feel free to ask questions, etc and see y’all next time.