“Green beans” is probably reminiscent of a fried onion casserole at Thanksgiving dinner or, perhaps less lovingly, the mushy things from a can that you pushed around on your plate as a child. Haricot Verts, however? Fancy. Nobel. French. But is there any real difference between the two at all?
The short answer: Haricot Verts are a French variety of green beans, which literally means “green beans” from French – sometimes they are even sold as “French green beans”. They are long, thin, tender, cook in no time at all, have a light, strong taste, and are also usually harvested earlier in the season when the beans are younger. Keep an eye out for them at your farmers market in the summer when they are in high season.
So that they let their light, fresh crispness shine, they are particularly tasty when they are simply prepared. A quick blanching and a light butter-herb dressing are a foolproof method, as is throwing it into a tomato salad or a summery zucchini-bulgur side dish.
The bag of beans that you have in the back of your freezer for stir-fry meals, the canned beans from the lunch break in kindergarten, the green beans in the bag in the vegetable aisle – probably not savory. They are most likely a variety of green beans that are called Blue lake beans which are a little fatter, shorter, more resilient and tolerate longer cooking times than haricot verts.
Blow them up in a cast iron pan, sauté and serve with paneer platters. They take a little longer to cook than their slender French cousins, but ultimately work in the same preparations. Or try the Green Bean Palya: This South Asian-style dish, made by chopping fresh green beans into small, quarter-inch pieces, takes a little time to cook, but they cook quickly (e.g. 3 minutes fast). stay crispy and tender and allow a maximum surface for the absorption of sauces and spices. Use the “palya” method, adding in fried tofu, dried coconut and a tangy sambal sauce for a midweek dinner that is the perfect combination of sweet, savory and spicy.
So can you use them in place of each other? Technically you can, but keep in mind that Haricot Verts have a much shorter cook time and are slightly more delicate. They can also be more expensive and have a shorter season in summer than the common Blue Lake variety.
To be clear, besides the French style beans and Blue Lake green beans, there are many other vegetables that are similar. You will likely find many varieties of heirloom at the farmers market, and sometimes familiar types have different names depending on how they’re grown (is it runner beans or bush beans?) And how they’re harvested. Some aren’t even green – you’ll find bright purple and yellow varieties too. But as you browse the aisles of your grocery store, you will likely choose between these two. And now that you know the difference between haricot verts and good old-fashioned green beans, you’re ready for summer success.
Coconut Tofu Pan
Crunchy, bite-sized green beans and coconut tofu are a heavenly combo in this quick weekday meal.
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