You are wandering through the farmers market, which now is rich with all kinds of great food ready for your kitchen. If you are like me, you’ll have some tomatoes, several ears of corn (be sure to try some Peaches and Cream variety), a basket of peaches or a watermelon, maybe some field peas, and because you know the kids will eat them, a pound or two of green beans.
I have always liked my green beans best “Mama style,” which means cooked to death with some bacon and new potatoes, just the way my mother and grandmother cooked them. It’s the ultimate in Southern-style cooking. At least that was until I ran across this grilled green bean idea.
There are two trends in the restaurant world right now. One being the resurgence of cooking in meat fats, mainly beef fat. From Andrea Reusing’s Durham Hotel restaurant to Vivian Howard’s The Boiler Room Oyster Bar in Kinston, beef fat has become the medium for cooking exceptional fries. I’ll visit this in a forthcoming column. The other trend is charring anything and everything from the vegetable world. I have a friend who says, “If you can eat it, you can grill it.” OK, but some things work better than others.
I’m going to admit that I have blandly stolen this idea. On a recent trip to chef Gabe Barker’s place in Carrboro, Pizzeria Mercato, he offered a side dish of grilled green beans with Romesco sauce. It totally changed my mind on how I want to eat green beans. Grilling a green bean is just plain awesome, and the idea of the sauce is a crowning moment. The method and recipe are mine, but the concept is all his.
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Romesco is one of the world’s classic sauces from the Catalonia region of Spain. It’s a brightly colored sauce that’s exciting to the eye and even more astonishing on the tongue. The sauce makes a summer statement that’s perfect for the beans: acidic from tomatoes, sweet from red bell peppers, loads of garlic, and the texture and flavor of ground almonds. You can play around with it, adding hotter peppers, or using walnuts if you like, and the recipe below will make more than you need for the beans. Not a problem. This is a sauce you will find all kinds of uses for, from seafood to steak.
Grilling the beans is quick. If you have a grill basket, it’s really simple, but you don’t have to go buy one. Just place the beans so they won’t fall through your cooking grates and roll them with a spatula or tongs, much like grilling asparagus. The beans are good hot or at room temperature and go with most any meal.
No, I won’t give up on cooking green beans the way mother did, but now I have a new and interesting problem. To grill or not to grill. Oh, that was bad. Just try them.
Fred Thompson is a Raleigh cookbook author and publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine. His latest cookbook is “The Kamado Grill Cookbook.” Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grilled Green Beans with Romesco Sauce
The beans are perfect with just about any grilled food, or as part of a summer vegetable plate.
1/2 cup raw slivered almonds
2 slices sourdough bread, crust removed
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
4 roasted red peppers, peeled and seeded
1 tomato, peeled
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
Up to 2 pounds of green beans, trimmed but left whole
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil for drizzling
Place the almonds, bread, garlic, red pepper flakes, if using, roasted red peppers, tomato and vinegar in a blender. Pulse to combine and with the machine running, add the oil slowly to make a nice emulsified sauce. This can be done a day in advance or up to 10 days in advance, and refrigerated in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before using.
Preheat your grill to high, or start a charcoal fire.
Toss the green beans with salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil.
Place the beans in a grill basket, and place on the cooking grate, or carefully place the beans so they won’t fall through your grill’s cooking grate.
Cook the beans until some char starts to happen, turning or rolling the beans to get equal char. This will only take a couple of minutes.
Serve hot or at room temperature, with some of the sauce drizzled over the beans, and more sauce on the side.
Yield: 6 servings