Sunday, August 5, 2007

Green Beans with Roasted Shallots and Balsamic Glaze

Sometimes the simplest of ingredients can make the most magnificent of tastes. Such with this easy vegetable. It was only in the last 15 years or so that I have come to appreciate the flavor enhancements, the joy, of cooking with shallots. They have a kind of elusive taste. Not an onion. Not garlic, either. But somewhere in between. And you most likely know they're expensive. Certainly more than onions. And since you usually use more quantity of shallot than of garlic, they can add up if you use very many of them. But I try to keep a few in my pantry all the time now. So I have them when I want them and don't have to make a special trip to the market.

As with onions, once you cook them for awhile they develop this lovely seductive smoothness, and if allowed to caramelize, so the natural sugars in them darken and nearly burn, they have a whole other taste. Unforgettable, really.

And then there's the simple green bean. I go through spells of like and dislike with them. Sometimes I love them dearly, when they're smooth and tender. Other times, after I've prepared some and they've been tough and stringy (even fresh) I've sworn off them for a season. I particularly like Blue Lake green beans. And don't mind paying the price if the market carries them, as they more than likely will be tender. I also absolutely L-O-V-E haricot verts (heh-ree-co-verr), the tiny little green beans originally made popular in France, hence the French name. They're merely young green beans. If you grow beans yourself, just pick them very young and you're most likely guaranteed of a tender mess of them. They're available sometimes at Trader Joe's, although they've been spotty as far as how fresh they are and the tenderness. But if I find them at our local farmer's market, I fall for them every time.

My mother used to make green beans quite often, and the usual method was to boil the heck out of them, until they were nearly mushy and quite gray. Sometimes she added a little onion, and some bacon. They're really not too bad that way, but I prefer my green beans to be a little firm to the tooth, al dente, as they say. And I like them to be truly GREEN, not gray.

In this dish, the shallots and the oil and vinegar are popped into a foil package to roast for an hour. You'll want to serve this dish immediately when they're done, so during that time you'll cook the beans (the photo above is a combination of green beans and sugar snap peas) at the very last minute and combine them, pile them into a serving bowl and the beans will still be nice and green. Do be sure to scrape every last bit of shallots and balsamic glaze out of the foil package. If you're not a real lover of green beans, this might convert you.

Green Beans with Roasted Shallots and Balsamic Glaze
Recipe: From a cooking class at
Servings: 6
12 ounces shallots
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 ounces green beans
salt and pepper -- to taste
1. To roast shallots: Peel the shallots and cut in 1/2 inch pieces. Place in the middle of a large piece of aluminum foil. Pour oil and vinegar over the shallots, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, tossing the shallots to coat. Fold and seal the foil, place on a large baking sheet and bake at 375° for about one hour.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the cleaned and trimmed green beans. Cook until they are just barely done (al dente). Remove from water and plunge into cold or iced water to stop the cooking. Drain for a few minutes.
3. Open the foil and stir to loosen some of the caramelized bits on the foil, then add the green beans and stir and toss to coat the beans thoroughly. Season with additional salt or pepper as needed.
Serving Ideas : This can be served hot, room temp, or cold.
NOTES : These are really very easy. The beans may be cooked ahead, but bake the shallots near to the time to serve.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 131 Calories; 9g Fat (59.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 9mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat.
To view a printable recipe, click on title at top.

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