Miriam's Garden: It's making beans

In my garden, after several heavy rains, the beans have blossomed and are making beans! It's the first time we've grown them in a few years. They're producing nicely and the beans are crisp and sweet. Inspiring.

We stopped growing beans because we had problems with voracious Mexican bean beetles. After a consult with Doug Oster, as we sat signing our books at the Phipps Tomato and Garlic Festival last August, I learned that an application or two of organic BT would nip these guys. Seems to have worked. Thanks, Doug!

We have two types of pole beans winding their way around not-quite-tall-enough bamboo poles. Both are flat-podded beans. There's a green 'Garden of Eden' and a curvy, delicate-looking, very flat yellow 'Marvel of Venice' bean. Next to those is a green, flat-podded bush bean called 'Pension.' Here's hoping it benefits me in later years.

I selected these seed packets and gave them to my husband to plant. Therefore, I can only blame myself that there is so little variety. I would prefer that one of them were a different color, such as purple. I love the way purple beans look when they grow. Or a different shape, perhaps slender and thin instead of all flat. I want some round yellow wax beans, too. When the peas go out, a small row of these will go in.

I try not to plant too many beans. But when the glossy seed catalogs arrive in the mail in the frozen months, I am bewitched by the descriptions of beans. "Incomparable flavor." "Superior producer." “'Henderson's Black Valentine' has "great yields!" and "tasty pods." I must remember that too many beans becomes a chore. You'll beg your friends to take them or better yet, to pick them themselves and take them. Offer large bags so they can fill them with beans and take them away.

Sometimes I've turned my aching back on them, exhausted. That's not respectful of the bean.

Inspired by something I read on Twitter (in between weeding), I was reminded that Chef Jamilka Borges of Bar Marco in the Strip District has an inventive way with vegetables. I called her up to talk beans.

There's a new section on Bar Marco's menu called Jamilka's CSA, featuring three different preparations of seasonal vegetables. She noted that you can find fresh vegetables in lots of dishes around town but it's hard to find menus "that make them the focus. It's hard to have a snack of just vegetables."

Recently Jamilka's CSA offerings included Fried Zucchini with Green Goddess Dressing, Roasted Turnips with a Honey Glaze, and Asparagus with Horseradish Cream.

I think you could do more than just snack on these. I'd order them all for a wonderful meal. Or a table could share one or two along with their main dishes.

On Monday mornings, the whole staff goes to the East Liberty Citiparks Farmers Market to check out what's new. The cooks select what they like and what inspires them, and that dictates the vegetable dishes on her ever-changing menu. She also purchases veggies from Who Cooks For You Farm.

Chef Borges talked about some baby carrots she bought at the market from One Woman Farm. She simmered them in water with honey and then used the carrot tops to make the Green Goddess dressing. She was using the whole vegetable, instead of tossing the tops. Respecting the vegetable.

Jamilka's French Green Bean Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Basil

PG tested

This gorgeous salad will taste good with any garden-fresh green beans. Jamilka Borges prefers to use the slender French green beans called haricots verts.

1 pound haricots verts, or any green beans

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, and maybe a little more, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup finely shredded fresh basil

2 tablespoons finely cut chives

1/2 cup crumbled soft, fresh goat cheese

Bring large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add big pinch of salt and beans. Cook, uncovered, until beans are bright-green and crisp-tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Drain beans and plunge into bowl of ice-water to cool them quickly and retain their bright color. When cold, drain again, picking out any ice cubes.

In serving bowl, mix olive oil and lemon juice. Add beans, toss and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add basil and chives; toss again. Sprinkle with goat cheese and serve.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

-- Chef Jamilka Borges, Bar Marco

Green Beans with Anchovies and Lemon

PG tested

Jamilka Borges makes this dish with sugar-snaps. I asked her to do a version with green beans, because it sounded so delicious. She told me when a customer says that they don't like anchovies, she urges them to try this dish. "If you don't like it," she says, "I will make you something else." Hasn't yet happened. "This is super-easy and good," she said. It was. But be watchful: When anchovies are added to hot oil, they splatter. Use anchovies in olive oil from a jar, not a can, because they'll have better flavor. Find them at Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. in the Strip District.

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed

Kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 anchovy fillets packed in olive oil, preferably from a jar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Bring large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add big pinch of salt and beans. Cook, uncovered, until beans are tender, 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and cool briefly under cold running water.

In heavy, medium skillet, stir oil and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until it just starts to color. Add anchovies right away, watching for splattering, and cook until dissolved.

Add green beans, 1 tablespoon water and salt to taste. Cook, tossing, until beans are heated through. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Taste, seasoning with more lemon juice and salt, if needed. Serve hot.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

--Chef Jamilka Borges, Bar Marco

Miriam Rubin: mmmrubin@gmail.com or on Twitter @mmmrubin.


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