There are many different types of beans, including snap, string, and stringless snap beans. Green beans, yellow wax beans, and deep purple varieties are popular in the U.S. Dried beans are higher in protein than the early, fresh beans, making them a staple in vegetarian diets. Beans contain good amounts of vitamins A, B1, and B2, as well as calcium and potassium. Fresh shell beans are also popular to cook, such as lima, fava, and soybean (aka edamame).
Refrigerate fresh beans in a plastic bag, and use as soon as possible. Green beans keep well for about a week. Shell beans are very perishable and should be used within a few days; they can be stored in a basket or paper bag in the fridge. Fresh and shell beans can also be frozen for longer-term storage; blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, rinse in cold water, drain and dry well, and store in an airtight container in the freezer. Dried beans will store for years, though some recommend using them within six months.
Prior to cooking fresh beans, remove strings and stems. Beans retain more nutrients when they are cooked uncut. Steam or simmer fresh beans in boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Beans should brighten in color and become tender, but not too soft or mushy. If fresh beans will be served chilled, cook less to retain crispness.
Green Beans with Caramelized Onions
2 pounds green beans, stem ends snipped off
2 tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, sliced as thinly as possible
1 cup chicken stock
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook beans in salted, boiling water for 2-4 minutes until tender. Drain, immerse in ice water to stop cooking, and drain again. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook slowly until they start to deepen in color (about 15 minutes). Boil the stock in a saucepan until it reduces to about ¼ cup. Stir in the sugar, vinegar, and onions, and simmer until slightly reduced. Add in green beans and heat through. Finally, season with salt and pepper.
(Recipe by MACSAC, in From Asparagus to Zucchini: A Guide to Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce (Third Edition).)
Sesame Garlic Green Beans
1 pound green beans, washed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
Heat a large pan over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add green beans and sesame oil and stir to coat. Cook for 8-10 minutes until beans turn bright green. Add soy sauce; stir frequently for 5 minutes. Finally, stir in toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes (if using them), and transfer to a serving dish.
(Adapted from original recipe here.)
Dragon Bean Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
½ lb. Dragon tongue beans
¼ cup shallots, thinly sliced
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, shallots, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour over beans and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 3 hours before ready to serve. Serve chilled or at room temperature.