Everyday Food (September 2009)
We saw a cooking demo this summer, and as the chef was chopping up vegetables for a green bean and feta salad, she made special mention of how she was cutting up the green beans: slicing them into quarter-inch segments, on the diagonal.
Somebody in the group asked why, and the chef leveled with us: It doesn't make them taste better, but it does make them seem more special.
Sometimes, it really is the small things.
Such is the case with a side dish like Green Beans with Hazelnuts. Though uncomplicated and relatively simple, the preparation elevates green beans to something, well, more special.
Green beans are a staple in The Bitten Word home. We buy them almost every week at the market when they're in season. We typically eat them very plain, either blanched and tossed with lemon juice or sauteed with a bit of bacon grease.
Always up for a new twist on our usual dishes, we were eager to sample these beans. We had some whole hazelnuts on hand, from when we made cookies last winter. We placed them in a bag, whacked them with a meat hammer, and then put them in a skillet over low heat, allowing them to toast slightly.
In another skillet, we sauteed the green beans. Once they were "crisp-tender," we tossed them with the hazelnuts, a bit of parsley and some fresh lemon juice. And that's it -- the dish is done!
We really loved this combination. In fact, this is actually a great example of why we enjoy food magazines so much. Here are four ingredients (plus butter and olive oil -- do those even count?) that we had in our kitchen, but that we would never have combined on our own. Hazelnuts and green beans just aren't a pairing we would have come up with.
But it's absolutely delicious! The hazelnuts add a great flavor and crunchy texture to the verdant beans, and the lemon and parsley really brighten it up. You should definitely throw in some hazelnuts the next time you're cooking green beans -- you'll be very happy you did!
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter over medium. Add 1 pound green beans, trimmed; season with course salt and ground pepper. Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until green beans are crisp-tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts, toasted, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Serve immediately. Serves 4.