Vegetable Side Dishes
This is the time of year when new things seem to literally spring out of the ground and off trees, and with a snap of our fingers, a bit of toil or money, can be conjured into our kitchens.
Two of those things are on our menu frequently here, in various forms. Fresh green beans and fresh garlic: who can resist such a tastebud-tingling combination? They accompany everything beautifully; they add colour to any dish, and they’re quick to put together.
When I say fresh garlic, I’m talking wet, sticky, pungent garlic; the real deal. When we were visiting England in 2011, the land of cutsie, corny names like Bangers ‘n’ Mash, Stinking Bishop Cheese, The Wibbly, Wobbly Bridge (seriously! believe it; it’s true), Duttons for Buttons, and Fat Rascals, we saw a sign above a basket of fresh garlic that read “Wet Garlic”. Immediately Steve and I looked at each other and exclaimed, “Of course! That’s exactly what it’s like!” Ever since, I think of the freshly harvested undried garlic as “wet garlic”. Forget that anemic Chinese stuff that you need to use three of to get any sort of flavour. This is for serious garlic-lovers.
So last night I took three handfuls of fresh Ontario green beans, one for each of us; washed them, cut off the stem end, and threw them into my medium sized frying pan with a wee dram of water, and a teaspoon or two of olive oil. I pried out one clove of garlic, finely chopped it and sprinkled it in with the beans, along with a tablespoon of chopped onions. I covered it, but kept the lid ajar (this keeps the beans green), and cooked them until they were starting to turn bright green. Then I removed the lid, and finished cooking them as the liquid reduced and the beans started frying a bit. Grate salt and coarse pepper over the lot, and you have a scrumptious side dish. Sometimes I add crumbled bacon or quartered cremini mushrooms. This time I served them with chicken schnitzel, new potatoes with fresh parsley butter, and a slice of a lovely ripe heirloom tomato. It was a meal fit for the Queen! Next time I should invite her.
By the way, I do love England; it’s a mystical, magical country full of Charles Dickens, Beatrix Potter, William Shakespeare, Beefeaters, Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, the Bronte’ sisters, and The Phantom of the Opera. It made me remember books from my childhood and youth, and lots of history lessons coming to life. It’s a country of contrasts and paradoxes. Also, sheep. Lots and lots of sheep.
Garlic is planted in the fall and left out over winter. It is harvested at the beginning of July, then dried for several weeks on racks. The dried stuff is brought out for sale after the “wet garlic” is sold.
Typically dried Ontario garlic is twice as pungent as the Chinese stuff; “wet” up to thrice as garlicky. Keep dry garlic at room temperature; wet in the fridge in a bag.
Garlicky Green Beans
- 1 quart (4 cups) fresh green beans, washed and stem end removed
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped onions
- 1-2 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, butter, or bacon drippings
- 2-3 Tablespoons water
- Salt and pepper to taste
Optional toppings: crumbled bacon, shredded cheese or fried mushrooms
DirectionsToss beans, garlic, onions and water into a medium to large frying pan. Cover partially, leaving lid ajar for steam to escape. This will help to keep the beans green. Cook quickly until liquid evaporates, then remove lid and stirfry the beans until they are just beginning to brown slightly. Top with desired optional toppings, then grind salt and pepper coarsely over all.