Bean there, done that? Probably not -- try these tempting green bean recipes

Jennifer Mastroianni

Talk about a vegetable with a split personality.

That would be green beans, a veggie that is as much uptown as it is down home.

Consider the young, slender, stringless bean. Europeans, along with many American chefs and cooks, often refer to the bean by its French name, haricot vert, or plural, haricots verts (a-REE-kohs vers).

Aside from its alluring name, young tender green beans are delicious. They pair beautifully with pan-fried pancetta, or walnut oil and toasted walnuts.

More mature green beans are known as, well, green beans. Grown-up beans are just as tasty, especially as comfort food. Green beans and ham hocks is such a dish, cooked for eight hours in a crockpot.

Cooked this way, even older tougher beans get tender without turning to mush. This recipe goes the distance as an old-fashioned belly filler. Eat as is, or heap a pile on a steaming mound of buttery mashed potatoes. Or, as some folks reportedly do in the South, pile them between two slices of white bread or cornbread for a green bean sandwich.

Also consider a recipe I made up. I took my crockpot full of green beans and ham hocks and pureed it into soup. Topped with cracked black pepper and a drizzling of olive oil, it was a tasty replica of split pea soup.

The idea resulted from my green bean preservation dilemma. I have a garden full of green beans, but I’m not thrilled with my stockpiling options.

Canning is OK, but canned beans don't taste like fresh green beans, and frozen beans get water-logged when cooked. Pureed green beans and ham hocks is a handy alternative. Eat it as soup or freeze. Come winter, use as soup stock for split pea or bean soup.

Note:  The hericots verts recipes are great with bigger beans as well.

Contact Jennifer Mastroianni at (330) 580-8304 or jennifer.mastroianni@cantonrep.com.

HARICOTS VERTS WITH WALNUTS

2 pounds haricots verts, trimmed

5 tablespoons walnut oil

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted in oven 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In large pot boiling salted water, cook haricots verts until crisp-tender. Drain and pat dry. (Haricots verts can be cooked one day ahead, drained and patted dry, and refrigerated until ready to use.) In large skillet over moderately high heat, heat walnut oil. Add garlic, cooking until golden brown and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Add beans, stirring, until heated. Season with salt and pepper. Place on serving tray. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

PANCETTA SAUTÉED HERICOTS VERTS WITH CHERRY TOMATOES

1/2 pound washed and trimmed haricots verts

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup pancetta, diced

Salt and pepper

1 cup cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup feta cheese

Heat olive oil into a large sauté pan. When hot, add pancetta; cook and stir until browned. Add haricots verts, pinch of salt and pepper, and cherry tomatoes. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until beans are crisp tender. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with feta cheese.

GREEN BEANS AND HAM HOCKS

2 pounds green beans, cleaned with ends removed

1-2 smoked ham hocks

1 can chicken broth or 1 can beer

Place beans and hocks in crockpot. Pour liquid over beans. Season with fresh ground pepper. No need for salt, the ham hocks will add enough. Cook on high for 5-6 or low for up to 10 hours. Remove hocks and remove any unwanted skin or bones, shred any meat. Serve as is, or with cornbread, over mashed potatoes, or puree for soup or stock.