Green beans with toasted panko breadcrumbs…it’s so simple to make. Just green beans, panko breadcrumbs, lemon and just a little bit of butter and oil. That’s pretty much it. The rest just unfolds in your mouth with a mixture of toasty crunch and the satisfying chew of a well-cooked bean, all brightened with just a drop or two of a fresh-squeezed lemon wedge. Heaven. I’ve resurrected this recipe from last year’s August posts, and a good thing too…cause it’s a keeper. Just please use fresh green beans to make this dish. Only the happy snaps of super fresh green beans offer, once cooked, the perfect texture.
And I heard a whole lot of happy snaps from this bunch of lovelies.
Which, by the way, is why I bought them.
I always scour for great looking string beans everywhere I go. I do this because Erik, my husband, loves string beans and it’s such a tiny little way to express some love. It’s also a great way to seek forgiveness when I’ve been too petulant. It should be an easy thing to do…buy nice green beans. Or at least easier than it’s been…
Unfortunately I often have to express this love (or seek absolution) outside the bounds of a perfectly cooked and assembled green bean dish because, alas, I equally often have trouble finding ones that are worth troubling over. I usually find ones with dark spots on them that bend and twist like gummy worms. Yuck.
You’d think finding fresh string beans would be easy here in Alabama. Not so. Prior to moving here I had envisioned a booming agricultural scene filled with all sorts of delicacies donning roots and foliage (not to mention that Auburn University has an extremely well-regarded agricultural school). But my perceptions were apparently stuck in the last century, when Alabama’s economy WAS primarily agricultural. With the number of private farms steadily dwindling since the 1960s, agriculture now accounts for only about 1 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Which helps to explain why this morning I bought mangoes from Mexico and asparagus from Peru. Sigh…
But eureka! Today I went to my favorite vegetable market, Blooming Colors, and low and behold if I didn’t find amazing green beans! I could already hear that happy snap, snap, snap! Thank you Ginger, Blooming Colors manager extraordinaire!
Before even deciding how I would regale Erik, I prepped them, which began by removing those pesky little ends. (Clearly my two girls were readily summoned for this task, and kept me company until we had a little mound of rejects and a huge mound of perfect, lusciously green green beans. It’s amazing how quickly this can be accomplished with six hands instead of two.)
I prefer this method to just cutting them, as I used to do, and it’s not because of needing to remove the green beans’ fibrous string (that was bred out of most green beans long ago). It does, however, give you the opportunity to feel each individual green bean and to get rid of the ones that, well…don’t make the break…literally. They just continue to give and give and droop downward, resembling rubber more than a chlorophyll-filled, healthful vegetable.
Eject the reject, I say!
In this way, we end up with only the firm ones… the ones that translate well into our cooked dishes.
making green beans with toasted panko breadcrumbs
Then it’s on to blanching 1 1/4 pounds of green beans (which is usually about a 1 1/2 before removing the ends). JUMP HERE FOR ‘HOW TO BLANCH GREEN BEANS.
While the blanched green beans are draining in a colander, we toast the Panko breadcrumbs. It took me a while to warm up to these breadcrumbs, for the simple and silly reason that I always associated them with ‘Asian’ food and so I didn’t think they made my Italian-leaning food preference cut. Boy was I wrong! I love how airy and flaky they are! They don’t work with everything I make that requires breadcrumbs (cutlets, for instance, need the denser meal of a traditional breadcrumb), but when they do, it’s magical. Simply magical.
So heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick pan on medium-high heat. Once the oil starts swirling around in the pan, indicating that it’s approaching the smoking point, add 1 heaping cup of Panko breadcrumbs. Cook them, stirring constantly, for 3 to 4 minutes until they look golden.
Season with sea salt and pepper and transfer them to a bowl.
In the same nonstick pan, melt one tablespoon each of olive oil and butter on medium heat. When the butters starts to bubble, add the green beans, stir them around to evenly distribute them around the pan and immediately turn the flame up to medium-high. Season them, again, with some sea salt and pepper.
Allow them to cook for a minute or so undisturbed, which will allow the beans to start coloring on the side touching the pan. Then mix the beans around again and allow them to cook undisturbed for another minute.
Do this until the majority of the beans in the pan look well-colored on at least one side. This should take about 6-7 minutes total. Taste the green beans to ensure proper seasoning. Arrange the beans to your liking in a warmed serving bowl. And you don’t have to make them all go in one direction, unless you have a glass of wine in one hand and are listening to some excellent music…in that case, it’s not a bad way to spend a few minutes.
This, for instance, is a picture I took on a different day that I made this green bean dish. I think it still looks pretty and all I did was to just gently pour some onto a plate from the pan. Then sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs. Place a few lemon wedges around the sides of the beans and encourage everyone to spritz their helping with a few drops of lemon juice, as it adds the most wonderful brightness to this dish. Makes 4 servings.