The Tale of the Green Beans

By Pamela Hamilton | Last Updated February 15, 2006
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Green beans fresh from the market

Three green bean recipes for all bean sizes from young and tender to older and tougher.

With green beans, to tail or not to tail, that is the question.

As a child, I remember my grandmother shaking her head and saying that only lazy cooks wouldn't tail the beans. We'd sit at her grey-flecked, Formica kitchen table with a giant tin pan of string beans straight from the garden. In one fluid motion, she'd tear off the tops of the beans, giving them a tug down the side to remove one of the fibrous strings. Then she'd twist off the pointed tail and pull the string from the other side. Only then, were the beans ready to bend into bite-size pieces with a satisfying snap.

Grandma would have been horrified, when years later as a young adult I encountered a bundle of green beans in a fancy French restaurant that still had their pointy ends.

"For these prices," she would have tsk-tsked, "they could have removed the tails."

Looking closer, however, I noticed that these were not your ordinary garden variety of string beans. They were whisper-thin, delicate, French haricots verts with all of their sharp little ends perfectly aligned. When nibbled, the beans were crisp, yet tender, but definitely not stringy.

Grandma would have still shaken her head.

French Green Bean Salad

Tender green bean salad with potato and fish
When you have tiny, tender beans, they need nothing more than a quick dunk in boiling water to set their bright green color and make them ready for the salad.

Roasted Green Beans

Wrinkled roasted green beans.
If your green beans are larger, but still not over-the-hill, they can be roasted.

Slow-Cooked Middle Eastern Green Beans

Sometimes you end up with beans that have seen better days. They may be large, tough, stringy or even starting to turn a little brown on the edges. When that happens, this is the green bean dish you...

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