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August 27, 2008

Save the Self-Esteem of the Beleaguered Green Bean


Who could blame the green bean if it were discovered to have a diminished sense of self worth?


At the heart of the problem would be an ugly bigotry against side dishes. We have seen this played out, time and time again, in restaurants across the land. You order from the menu, and the person who will later transport the food from kitchen asks – almost as if it were an afterthought – what side items you’d like with it. Those items are listed on a submenu to the regular menu, turning side dishes into second class citizens in the world of food.


You may shake your fist at the sky in defiance of this, a futile feel-good gesture. You may also take concrete action, to show the green bean the respect it deserves, to make it feel as if it were your own brother.


That something starts with a skillet, a burner turned on high heat and some olive oil. Heat the oil while you are cutting the ends off some green beans and further cutting them into bite-sized pieces.


Perhaps you are looking at this, thinking, “Green beans in hot oil . . . what about that demands respect, as if the bean were my own brother?”


The answer is that, while the oil continues to heat, you will want to also slice some onion and garlic and cut into bite-sized chunks some Roma tomatoes and sliver up some fresh basil leaves.


By the time you have done this, the oil will be hot. It should be heated to where it is just beginning to smoke when you scrape the beans, garlic and onion into the skillet.


There will be a sound that will sound like sizzling. Instead, it is the sound of thousands of tiny hands applauding the green bean. It is taking center stage, and it is magnificent.


Sauté the beans until they start to crisp. It will not take long. The green beans act is a short one, and if you’ve done what you’ve been asked to do and essentially shaved the onion and garlic, those will practically dissolve.


When the beans have crisped, turn off the heat and add the tomatoes and basil. Luckily for you, the pan and beans will be hot enough to do all the cooking required for this. The thing about the Roma tomato is that it is a pulpy tomato rather than a juicy one, and you will want it to retain its form. Basil, too, does better in short spurts of cooking rather than over a long haul. It is like an airplane that loses power mid-flight, except that this doesn’t end in a fiery explosion.


The tomato will turn soft, and the juices it gives out will coats the beans, already flavored with garlic and onions. They will melt in your mouth as you bite into the flavored beans. Its sense of self worth now restored, you may forgive the green bean if it now looks at you with mild conceit.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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