I’m talking about THIN green beans, of course…  😉

We learned about Michel Richard firsthand, at his wonderful, exciting restaurant Central in Washington DC.  What a delicious experience it was! The bread – that keeps coming to the table, always warm and impossible to say no to – and the gougeres alone are worth stopping by.  In his book Happy in the Kitchen, Michel Richard comments  that  most recipes for green beans cook them in boiling water, then quickly shock them in an ice-bath. However, he adamantly opposes this method when dealing with pencil-thin green beans. They are so delicate, so why would anyone furiously boil and shock the poor things, leaving them limp and lifeless?

I’ve been guilty of such green bean cruelty more than once, but I won’t ever do it again. When prepared  by Michel’s guidelines, they are simply irresistible, even served without any embellishments. However, pairing these beauties with small roasted tomatoes didn’t hurt them a bit.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the green beans:
a bunch of pencil-thin green beans (amount enough for two)
1 Tbs olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp orange zest
salt and pepper to taste

for the tomatoes
1 cup of grape tomatoes, cut in half
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Start by roasting the tomatoes.  Spread them in a single layer on a small baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper for easy clean up. Drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, shake them around, and season with salt and pepper.  Place in a 400 F oven until they get soft and start to brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve, keeping warm.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, add the red pepper flakes and the orange zest.  Keep in a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, until the mixture starts to get fragrant.  Increase the heat, add the green beans, and let them cook for a few minutes undisturbed, so that they get a little color where they make contact with the pan.  Stir them around to coat the beans with the flavored oil, and saute for a little while longer, until the beans are cooked through, but still al dente. Don’t overcook! Season with salt and pepper, add the roasted tomatoes on top, and mix gently.  Adjust seasoning, and serve right away.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Michel Richard’s main message is to cook thin green beans straight by sauteing in a small amount of fat.  You can substitute butter or a mixture of butter and olive oil, or use a different type of oil, keep in mind that some – like walnut oil –  burn at a lower temperature, so it’s best to add them close to the end of cooking.

The combination of green beans and orange zest, worked quite well in this recipe,  with the touch of balsamic vinegar brought by the tomatoes.  It was a nice side dish for our grilled flank steak, but if you want a fully vegetarian meal, add some pasta or couscous, a big salad and a thick slice of grilled bread.  It’s  more than enough for a tasty dinner.  Just remember, be kind to the green beans! 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

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  1. I sometimes cook them in the microwave. I put the beans, a little water and a couple of little pieces of tangerine (preferable) or orange peel in the mix and then microwave on fresh vegetable setting. I do this just before serving and take them immediately out of the bowl and serve immediately. Works great, always crisp and tender and the tangerine or orange give a little piquancy.


  2. Good idea, Dick, particularly useful when someone cooks in a kitchen as tiny as ours here in L.A. I’m always trying to minimize the number of pots and pans, and using the microwave can be a great alternative. My microwave here doesn’t have this particular setting, but I imagine that just setting it to a lower power would do the trick.


  3. We love green beans, the thin ones are a favorite, and the roasted tomatoes make the dish so beautiful!

    I am making this tomorrow night…..

    Thanks, Sally


  4. Happy in the Kitchen is one of my favorite books! I’ve never been to one of Richard’s restaurants, but I hope to visit one some day. These beans sound great with the orange zest and pepper flakes. I’ll remember not to shock the beans next time!


    • Happy in the Kitchen is a great, fun cookbook… there’s one recipe, though, I just could never get it to work very well. I don’t have the book with me to check the name of the recipe, but it’s basically a hashbrown type of recipe, made in a baking sheet. Mine turned out too greasy, and never quite crisped up. Seems like a great recipe to master, though… I should try it again


  5. Fine beans like these are almost my favourite vegetable ever and one of the few imported veggies I buy throughout the winter, ours come from Egypt and Kenya and all over the place. This sounds like a great way to cook them, I usually steam them and watch them like a hawk and sometimes I stir fry them very fast in a little oil, so something similar to you. But I haven’t tried orange zest and I can just imagine that would be delicious! xx


    • I had never seen these beans while growing up in Brazil, but once I tried them, it was love at first bite for sure! Cannot beat their flavor… and they look impossibly cute!


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