It may not make snap beans sound very exciting to say that they are usually a safe choice to order with a restaurant meal or to serve guests when you are unacquainted with their tastes in vegetables. But the fact remains that year after year they are the national favorite, second only to the tomato, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Snap beans, once called string beans, are available fresh from local fields at farmers' markets and supermarkets all summer long. Trucked in from much farther afield, they remain supermarket regulars at other seasons of the year as well. They add color and balance to the dinner plate and are wonderfully versatile: they're delicious served with butter and/or cream; with Hollandaise, cheese, mushroom, or tomato sauce.
Toss them with crumbled, cooked bacon; toasted, slivered almonds; chopped walnuts; saut'eed onions; buttered bread crumbs; or diced, hard-cooked egg. Enhance them with dill, basil, cumin, coriander; with sesame or poppy seeds. Combine them with other vegetables or put them in soups, salads, stews, and casseroles.
Store snap beans, unwashed, in the refrigerator or crisper in a plastic bag. Use within the week; if kept much longer they become discolored and tough.
When ready to cook, snap off ends. Leave whole or snap in bite-sized pieces, or prepare them French-style by slicing lengthwise once or twice.
Cook beans whole or in pieces in 1 inch of salted water for about 10 minutes, or until crisp-tender. For French-cut, about 5 minutes.
If you like the flavor, add a tablespoon of ham or bacon drippings, or steam whole beans in a steamer basket over boiling water, covered, about 15 minutes. One pound of raw beans makes about 3 cups cooked.
Green beans fresh from the garden, served with cream and butter, are an old New England favorite. Nutmeg and tarragon add interest in the following recipe. Green Beans in Cream 1 pound fresh green beans Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 2 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon l/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Trim off ends of beans. Put them in saucepan with water to cover and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and let simmer until tender, 5 minutes or longer, depending on age and size of beans. Do not overcook.
Drain beans and put in saucepan. Add salt, pepper, butter, cream, tarragon, and nutmeg. Bring to boiling, stirring. Cook briefly until cream is slightly reduced and thickened. Serves 4. Green Beans in Blue-Cheese Sauce 2 pounds green beans, cut up 1/2 teaspoon salt One 1 1/2-ounce envelope white-sauce mix 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
In large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat in 1 inch boiling water green beans and salt to boiling. Cover. Cook beans until fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, prepare sauce mix as label directs for medium sauce but stir in blue cheese with liquid. Toss beans in sauce. Serves 6 to 8. Chilled Green Bean Soup With Almonds 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces 2 cups chicken broth 1 cup water 3 green onions with tops, trimmed and chopped 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup heavy cream 1/3 cup plain yogurt 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper Toasted sliced almonds
Place beans in saucepan. Cover with 1 cup chicken broth, water, onions, and salt. Cook over high heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer 8 to 10 minutes or until beans are tender. Cool slightly.
Pur'ee bean mixture, 2 cups at a time, in blender or processor until smooth. Transfer to bowl. Stir in remaining broth, cream, yogurt, and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, until cold, 3 hours or overnight. Taste and adjust seasonings. Top with almonds. Makes about 6 cups. Green Bean Salad 1 1/2 pounds young tender green beans 2 to 3 quarts boiling water 1/3 cup salad oil 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar 3 shallots, finely minced Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Trim green beans and cook about 8 minutes in rapidly boiling water. Do not overcook. Drain and cool slightly. Blend oil and vinegar and pour over beans. Add chopped shallots and season with a little salt and lots of ground pepper. Top with parsley. Serves 4. Serve at room temperature. Green Bean Souffl'e 1 pound green beans 1/4 cup butter 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 tablespoons flour 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 1/4 cups milk 3 eggs 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/2 cup packaged bread crumbs
Trim beans. Wash and drain. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, beans, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat. Cook, turning occasionally, until water has evaporated, then saut'e beans in butter for 1 minute.
Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Stir in flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Sir in milk gradually. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened and bubbly.
Beat eggs lightly in a large bowl. Add cheese, nutmeg, green beans, and sauce. Mix well. Butter a 6-cup souffl'e dish. Dust with bread crumbs, tapping out excess. Pour in bean mixture. Bake in a 375 degrees F. oven for 45 minutes. Cool before serving. Serves 6. Snappy Green Bean Vinaigrette With Dill 1 1/2 pounds green beans 3 tablespoons peanut oil 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste Fresh lemon juice 3 tablespoons melted butter Chopped fresh parsley
Trim tips from beans and leave whole. Wash well and pat dry with paper towel. Heat peanut oil with dill in deep saucepan. Add beans and cover tightly. Place over flame guard. Cook gently, shaking the pan often, until just tender. Place beans in heated serving dish. Add salt and pepper, a little fresh lemon juice, and the melted butter and chopped parsley. Serves 6. `Snappy' Green Beans in Mustard Sauce 2 pounds green beans, trimmed Salt 1/4 cup white vinegar 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1/8 teaspoon dried tarragon 1/8 teaspoon dried basil
Place beans in large pot of boiling salted water and boil 5 to 8 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain. In a large bowl whisk remaining ingredients and 1/2 teaspoon salt until well blended. Add drained beans. Toss and serve hot. Serves 8.