OK, today I’m going the share an amazing recipe which we used to get our toddlers eating green beans, but they make a great side for “big people” ensuring you get another one of your “five a day”. I’m talking Zolano’s Zebra Beans. You want about 400g fine green beans, also known as boston beans, or french beans. If they are pre-cut, take the cut end off again with a sharp knife. I don’t like manky bean ends cut a week ago on my plate. In terms of “contact time” with the cooking, I reckon this is less than 5 minutes, which means you can do a lot else in parallel.
Stick them in a steamer, or the basket of a rice cooker to steam for about 5-8 minutes, or steam them in a small metal colander in a saucepan, so they lose some of their squeegy crunch, but retain “bite”. As they steam, cut one third of a large garlic clove into very fine slices. Use larger older bulbs of garlic with looser skin from small grocers and delis, not the tiny supermarket bulbs. By very finely sliced, I mean if you put the slice flat on a polypropylene chopping board you can barely see that it is there, now cross chop the garlic slices until they are very fine indeed, and crush them with the edge of a heavy steel (sabatier) knife – this
helps get the flavour into the oil later.
Pour a tablespoon of sesame seeds in a non-stick pan and stir/heat on medium until they are toasted, and a gorgeous aroma comes off ’em.
The beans are probably done now, so give them a quick wash through with a half litre of cold tap water (the “quench” step), in a colander or sieve – so they stop cooking. This step is key. If you are unsure they are cooked to perfection try poking a beans with a fork, and feel whether it is the right texture – mind out for that burning hot steam though! Let their inner heat steam off some of the steam water for a couple of minutes. You should be able to hold one end of the bean and it doesn’t flop, they should be a bright green colour, not dull.
Now rake them with olive oil and shake until coated and shiny, enough to coat them and a bit. Toss them with the garlic and sesame seeds, and spread them out on a serving plate or dish. Try adding a dash of red wine vinegar if you like things sour, or replace the sesame with toasted split almonds. If you’re serving anyone who objects to raw garlic, heat some olive oil in a frying pan until it is hot (but nowhere near smokin’) – and add in the garlic, stiring with a wooden spoon – allow the garlic to to go “just yellow”, and then use this oil (with or without the garlic itself) as your “sauce”. Rake them with crushed sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Finally – for the zebraness. Stripe with balsamic glaze, the one from Waitrose is fine and serve. Our kids eat them because they are stripey and call “zebra beans”, fact: they had stopped eating green beans prior to the nutritious black stripes.