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So Easy Being Green (Beans)

Finally, finally, this late-blooming summer has opened up and given us a couple lovely warm weeks to nudge the garden along. My marigolds have exploded, and peeking under the leaves, I can see that several green tomatoes have rosy cheeks. And the farmers market has become a riot of color and texture, too. Last week’s haul included a beautiful basket of green beans.

Sweet, fresh-picked beans are such a treat, although one of my favorite ways to prepare them—a simple weeknight side I learned from my dear college friend Stacy—is a great way to rescue less-than-tender green beans. Years ago, when I asked for the recipe, Stacy sent me a wonderful pinch-of-this, splash-of-that email in return. Turns out, the dish originally came from her mother-in-law, who I’m sure explained it to Stacy by the stove one day. But it works. And so I’ll share it here, in all its imprecise, cross-generational, passed-along glory.

Take some green beans (about a pound, give or take). Boil a big pot of water with salt. Add the green beans (which you snapped the end off of, I suppose you could snap them in half too, but I like how they look long). Boil the beans for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, get some garlic, I’d say three, maybe four cloves, and peel and slice it thin-ish.

Drain the green beans. Add olive oil to the pan you had the beans in (a fair amount), and put the garlic in and gently cook it til its golden on both sides. Add the green beans and toss.

(This is the exciting part—it hisses.) Take the pan off the stove and add apple cider vinegar, about a quarter of a cup, maybe more, depending on how many beans you’re working with. You want the beans to have some liquid with them.

Cook the beans for a few minutes in the olive oil and vinegar (turn down the heat). Toss the beans occasionally. They’ll turn a duller green color.

Add three shakes of red pepper flakes, four shakes of oregano (again, adjust the seasonings to your taste, just don’t overdo the oregano). Toss to get the spices mixed in. Serve warm or cold. (I like cold better.)

Stacy’s right. Eaten hot, the beans just taste like vinegar. Cooled to room temperature (or even better, chilled overnight), the acidity mellows and all the flavors come through. They’re an incredible weeknight side, make-ahead potluck dish or relish-tray addition. I love the leftovers wrapped in a tortilla with hummus, and my mind wanders to more ideas: A sandwich with salami, provolone and the beans, or how about one with fresh mozzarella and sliced ripe tomato? Luckily, it’s summer, and fresh beans are as plentiful as the ways to use them.

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