The green bean makes its appearance in the local supermarket in an array of avatars, each so different that a judicious taster would be pressured to name them in a blind taste-test. A chance encounter with the canned version reveals spongy, grayish-green pods soaked in a murky brine. Even the word ‘fresh’ emblazoned on a can’s label offends a perceptive palate. Seeking substance, if one were to reach for a convenient pre-cut pack in the freezer section, the solidness of the pack would seem to bode ill for the product inside, and the apprehension would be justified when cooking yields a flabby heap.
Then there is the spindly variety, like, say Blue Lake, that can sometimes be found by a lucky shopper ambling around the fresh market. With a crisp, flawless appeal, it seems to call for minimal cooking, and subtle seasoning. Perhaps this merging of the South Indian Beans Poriyal and Green Beans Almondine will highlight the succulence of the real thing.
Green Beans Coco-nut-ine
1 Pound fresh green beans, trimmed
¼ Cup shaved almond flakes, skin on
2 Tablespoons coconut milk or shredded fresh/frozen coconut
¼ Cup each mint and cilantro/coriander leaves, chopped up
- 1 Tablespoon each oil and butter
- 1 Dry red chilli
- 1 Teaspoon mustard
- ½ Teaspoon cumin
- 1 Teaspoon urad dal (split black gram)
- 2 Green chillies, minced
- A sprig of curry leaves
- 1 Tablespoon grated ginger
Start by cutting the beans finely, a regular chop if that is your style, or on the bias for a more elegant presentation. Steam for about 5 minutes in a basket steamer, until barely tender and still crisp.
Set the beans aside while you put the tadka together in a medium skillet. Gently heat the oil and butter, add the red chilli and the mustard, letting it splutter before you add the cumin. Toss in the almond flakes and urad dal and let them brown up before stirring in the chillies, curry leaves and ginger. After a minute, tilt in the steamer basket and let the beans sizzle in the tadka on medium-high heat for a minute or so. Add in the coconut milk or shreds, letting the liquid evaporate if you are using the former. Turn the flame off and add the herbs, watch them as they wilt and blend in.
Serve with fluffy, hot, white rice and your favorite dal, the crunch of the almonds complementing the juicy snap of the beans with each delicious mouthful.