Green beans, often called string beans, can rarely be found today with the fibrous string that was once their hallmark; the first stringless beans were bred in the late 19th century. Green beans as well as all other types of beans are derived from a common bean ancestor originating in Peru; migrating Native American tribes spread them throughout South and Central America, and in the 16th century returning Spanish explorers introduced them to Europe. Green beans are the immature form of any kind of bean, picked while the inner beans just begin to form. Also called snap beans, they constitute one of the few types of beans that can be eaten raw. Their impressive nutritional profile serves just as a bonus to their sweetness and flavor; they rank very high in Vitamins K and C, manganese, and many others.
Purchase green beans that feel smooth and firm, look smooth and vibrantly green, and snap when broken. Unwashed fresh green beans should be kept in a bag in the refrigerator, where they will keep for about a week. Immediately before using the green beans, rinse them and chop off both ends (particularly the stem end).
This recipe is my answer to the cravings I get for orange chicken whenever I visit a Chinese restaurant. Don't skimp on the sesame seeds, which make an astonishing difference in the flavor and texture, or the chopped orange segments, which should caramelize until browned and delicious. These can be served as a side dish or over brown rice.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes, including soak time
2 oranges, zested, peeled, segmented, and chopped
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon Bragg's aminos or tamari
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
roughly 1 lb green beans, washed and trimmed
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Whisk together the agave, Bragg's, balsamic, orange juice, pepper, garlic, oil, and chopped orange and zest. Place the mixture and the green beans in a large, shallow frying pan or wide saucepan. Soak 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so to soak all the beans. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn down and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed and the beans are slightly shriveled and the orange slices are caramelized.
Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a frying pan over medium-high heat, shaking often, until fragrant and lightly browned. Serve the beans plain or over brown rice or quinoa, and sprinkle liberally with the toasted sesame seeds.