We had our first picking of beans this week, and though my files are flooded with bean recipes, they can wait until later in the season. For the first picking, the best thing you can do is snap off the ends, steam them until tender, pile them in a big dish and add a lump of butter and some salt and pepper. With a hunk of crusty bread, salad and a glass of wine, a plate of just-picked beans makes a great meal.
In a couple of days I’ll be working my way through the recipes, and beans will be turning up in everything from chicken salad to spaghetti omelets. I’ll layer them on grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and toss them with cannellini beans and a lemony dressing. For side dishes, I’ll doll them up with toasted nuts and parsley and do a stir-fry with black bean sauce and ginger. If I can figure out a way, I’m planning on adding them to an eggplant Parmesan with sausage and ricotta, and while they’re still tender, I’ll put them in zucchini soup.
By the end of the season, the beans will be too fat and pulpy to eat. But by then I will have exhausted my recipes and we will have had our fill of beans. My husband will pull up the plants and take them to the compost where they will be transformed into nourishment for next year’s plants.
—By Jean Kressy