Garlicky Green Beans with Sesame and Ginger
Green beans, haricots, French beans — choose your name — are all descendants of the ayacot from Mexico where at least 30 varieties exist according to Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat in A History of Food. So like potatoes and maize this delectable bean found its way to the Old World from the New probably in the early 1600’s. They survived, and thrived, in Europe initially because they came unaccompanied by any pests that might like to eat them.
Overall, green beans are no fat, low calorie, low sodium, have a low glycemic load (if you count carbs), contain fiber and protein and a bunch of healthy nutrients. They are flavorful and versatile whether you cook them with toasted almonds, dill, garlic, ginger, oily black olives (and olive oil of course), potatoes, tomatoes, prosciutto, carrots, capers, cayenne or cumin. They can be boiled, grilled, sautéed, steamed or stir-fried. You can par-boil them ahead of time and finish quickly right before you eat. As vegetables go, what’s not to love?
I sometimes buy them and forget I have, then suddenly while rummaging around for something to cook for lunch, there they are. That’s how this dish came about. Not profound, but quick and satisfying. Serve with quinoa or brown rice. Soy sauce or tamari, if you can, would be nice.
1 pound (500g) fresh green beans
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 – 3 cloves garlic, smashed and left whole
1-inch knob of fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1. Wash and trim stem end of green beans and set a pot of water to boil. Also set a bowl of ice water close by and have a slotted spoon at hand.
2. To parboil the green beans, drop a big handful of beans into boiling water and let cook 2-3 minutes. The beans should have softened but still be crunchy (the timing here is really dependent on how well cooked you like your beans). Remove with a slotted spoon to the ice water to cool. Continue until you have parboiled all the beans. Drain.
3. Heat a small pan and toast the sesame seeds. Shake the pan as the seeds start to give off a nutty smell and remove from heat as they start to brown being careful not to let them burn. Pour into a small bowl and set aside.
4. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan large enough to hold the beans in one layer or use a wok. When oil reaches medium-high heat toss in the garlic and ginger and stir fry about a minute or two. Just as the garlic starts to get golden remove both the ginger and garlic from the pan.
5. Add the beans to the flavored oil and stir for a few minutes until desired doneness.
6. Remove from heat and toss with a tablespoon of sesame oil (or to taste) and toasted sesame seeds. A squeeze of lime is nice, especially if you can’t have soy.