As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up on canned products and salad as my options for vegetable-like things. My journey through adulthood has introduced me to the wonders of broccoli, broccolini, cauliflower, and all sorts of other greens that just never made it onto the childhood menu rotation. This minimal side dish selection would change for Thanksgiving and Christmas when we received a special treat: Green Beans with Almonds.
Initially, this was a way to dress up squishy, briny, grey-green canned beans to make them more appealing to our palates. When I was about ten or so, my mom decided to build a vegetable garden to one side of our house. This was my first experience with freshly-grown produce. Green beans were long and slender and crunchy – what a revelation! (The same kind of vegetable epiphany happened for me with snow peas as well.) I fell in love with these verdant slivers then and try to grab up handfuls of them each year when they arrive at the Greenmarket.
Theories behind how to cook green beans range from the boil the heck out of them until they are breaking apart, which is just too close to the canned ones I was tormented with as a child, to just barely fork-tender and crunchy. For this recipe, I cook them in boiling water until they get to the latter stage, drain them, and then pop them into the sauté pan along with butter and the toasted almonds. My mom used to cook all of the ingredients together, but that made the beans drenched in fat and rather greasy; it also involved way too much butter to be healthy. Cooked my way, they still have a bit of give to them but are soft enough to balance out the meaty, crunchy taste of the nuts while still having a bit of a sheen and richness from the butter.
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Serving Size: 4 people
1/4 c. slivered Almonds
1/2 pound fresh Green Beans, trimmed on top and bottom
2 Tbsp. unsalted Butter
3/4 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Put almonds on a tray in a single layer and place them in the oven to toast. This will take about 5-10 minutes, but you should check on them a few times to make sure that they do not become too dark or burn.
While the almonds are toasting, put a saucepan of water on the stovetop to boil. Once the water has boiled, put in 1/2 tsp. salt. Toss in the green beans and let them cook for 5-10 minutes until a fork inserted in them goes through easily (i.e., “fork tender”). Remove the saucepan from the heat and drain the green beans.
In a large frying pan, melt the butter. When the butter is frothy, toss in the green beans and the toasted almonds and stir them around until they are coated in the butter. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and toss to coat everything. Serve immediately.
This post is also in memory of my mother’s oldest brother who passed away suddenly this past Saturday evening. I took it pretty hard, even though I hadn’t seen him in a few years. I wondered why, and then it hit me as I thought about all the great family meals and many, many Thanksgivings and holidays that he had been at our house. As he didn’t have a wife and children of his own, he usually came to my folks’ place to join us in the festivities, well, and to watch football.
I would relish being a “big kid,” hanging out at the table after the plates had been cleared away, with my mom, their other sister, and him telling stories about growing up in their large, chaotic family while the inevitable family card game was in play. I don’t think I ever managed to win one of those, even as an adult.