For many people (and I include myself here), summer usually means taking quick advantage of the huge, lovely harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables that Maine is blessed with each year. And as luck will have it, this fabulous bounty is exploding as we speak! Fresh. Off the vine. Hand-picked at dawn, before the humidity and scorching sun kicks in. In other words, not transported to Maine via refrigerated truck.

Almost anything and everything you can possibly imagine. To many ambitious and dedicated people, this might mean tending their own gardens. Or (and I know I am not the only non-gardener out there), it just might start and end with a visit to a local farm stand.

Because Maine is currently busting at the seams with green beans, I checked in with a chef, a farmer and a food preserver for their advice on what to do when you’re knee-deep in your crop. The result? An oriental-leaning Green Beans and Tofu, a nutty, cheesy Green Bean Salad, your own pickled Dilly Beans and several more delicious recipes to get your bean on.

John Sayles and his wife, Sonya Theriault, owners of Summit Springs Farm in Poland since 2007, operate their farm as a CSA (community supported agriculture). As one of the services they offer to their shareholders, they maintain an extensive list of recipes on their website, summitspringsfarm.net, for every vegetable they grow. I imagine this must be a fabulous and easy-to-use tool after their customers have picked up their week’s worth of fresh veggies.

Tons of zucchini this week? No problem — just check out Farmer John’s list of recipes, and see what you might find. Zucchini and Summer Squash with Crispy Cornmeal Coating might sound pretty tempting. Or maybe you’re headed to a weekend barbecue potluck? Go ahead. Bring the slightly unusual Green Bean Salad, and if you’re really ambitious you could wow the crowd with his Double Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

Besides green beans, Sayles added, “other veggies coming on strong right now are zucchini, hothouse tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and kale.” Once he mentioned kale, a vegetable I hate to admit has not once crossed my lips, I lost a little focus. I did a quick search on the Summit Springs website to find out more about it. My curiosity was peeked when I found their recipe for roasted kale that they claim tastes like a potato chip. Since I have yet to meet a chip I don’t like, I have added roasting kale to my list of things I must soon attempt to do.

But getting back to the green beans, Sayles and Theriault were happy to give us the recipe for Green Bean Salad to help us take advantage of these fabulous, long, thin legumes.

Helpful suggestions were also offered up by Bates College Dining Services Head Chef Owen Keene, who sent along some of his more popular recipes for green beans, including Green Beans with Tofu and Turkish Green Beans. “They definitely,” he said, “put a new twist on the old green bean . . . not to mention they are vegan and/or vegetarian.”

Keene pointed out that the college tries to buy as much locally grown produce and other supplies as the budget allows, many of which come from Blackie’s Farm Stand or R. Belanger and Sons Farm in Lewiston. Keene is also happy to take advantage of gardens located right on campus, including the all-important herb garden located right outside the door of Dining Services, which he uses throughout the summer and early fall.

Meanwhile, Kathy Savoie, who teaches the Master Food Preserver Class for the Cooperative Extension out of Cumberland County, thought readers might like the Green Beans Vinaigrette along with her how-to directions for preparing Dilly Beans, an old-fashioned recipe for spicy, pickled beans, allowing you to enjoy the garden all winter long.

For online assistance with vegetable freezing, canning or preserving, check out the University of Maine Cooperative Extension website at www.extension.umaine.edu. Savoie has posted YouTube videos to help out the novice vegetable preserver. She said Cooperative Extension offices around the state provide a wealth of information on vegetable preserving, including hands-on classes or demonstrations. Publications and recipes are available for both new and seasoned food preservers on the Extension website.

Green Beans with Tofu

From Bates College Head Chef Owen Keene

1 cup olive oil blend (half olive oil/half canola oil)

2 pounds whole green beans

1 cup sesame seeds

1 pound extra firm tofu, diced to 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1 cup soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 cup toasted sesame oil

Method:

In large frying pan or wok, place olive oil and garlic and heat on medium until lightly browned

Add diced tofu and chili paste and saute for 1 minute.

Add green beans and stir fry for additional 3-5 minutes.

Add sesame oil at end and garnish with sesame seeds.

Turkish Green Beans

From Bates College Head Chef Owen Keene

 2 pounds green beans

4 ounces fresh red onions, diced to 1/4-inch pieces

1 clove chopped garlic

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup olive oil blend

1 teaspoon marjoram

Half a regular sized tomato, diced into quarter-inch pieces

Method:

Steam green beans for 5 minutes.

In a saute pan, heat oil and saute garlic and onions for 1 minute.

Add steamed beans and spices and tomatoes, toss together for 1 minute more. Serve.

Farmer John’s Green Bean Salad

From Summit Springs Farm

1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 pound green beans

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly shaved (about 1/2 cup)

Method:

Toast the walnuts in a dry, heavy skillet over high heat until they start to brown in spots and become fragrant.  Be careful not to overcook.  Immediately transfer the nuts to a dish to cool.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the beans and salt; cook until tender but still firm, 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer the beans to a colander in the sink and run cold water over them. Trim if necessary (trimming beans after cooking preserves more of their nutrients). Toss beans and walnuts in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. In a separate small bowl, whisk the lemon juice and olive oil until well combined. Pour the mixture over the beans and toss until well coated. Once served, sprinkle Parmesan on top.

Sonya’s Roasted Kale

From Summit Springs Farm

This is a great way to get anyone to eat kale. Yes kale! It almost tastes like potato chips.

1 bunch of kale, de-stemmed (hold the stem with one hand and strip off the leaves with the other) and slice the leaves crosswise into 1-inch strips.

Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread a small amount of oil on a cookie sheet and add the kale in one layer. Drizzle a bit more oil over the kale and add salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until kale is just slightly browned and crispy, about 15 minutes. Check frequently.

Green Beans Vinaigrette

From the Cooperative Extension office. Serves 6

2 pounds green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 tablespoon canola or olive oil

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Dijon-type mustard

2 tablespoons vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Method:

Steam beans until tender, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain. Mix all ingredients except beans in a large serving bowl. Add beans and toss.

Dilly Beans

From the Cooperative Extension office

4 1-pint canning/pickling jars with lids

2 pounds green beans

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, divided into 4

4 heads dill, divided or 4 teaspoons dill seeds

4 cloves garlic, divided

2 1/2 cups vinegar (5% acidity)

2 1/2 cups water

1/4 cup canning/pickling salt

Method:

Wash green beans thoroughly and trim both ends. Cut into 4-inch pieces.  

Combine vinegar, water and salt in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil. Pack beans lengthwise into hot, sterile jars, leaving 1/2-inch head space. Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove garlic and 1 head dill to each pint. Ladle hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/2 -inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rims. Place prepared lids on jars and screw bands on. Process pints for 5 minutes in a boiling-water bath.

Let beans stand for at least 2 weeks before tasting to allow the flavor to develop. The high acidity of the vinegar allows this boiling water bath processing to be safe for a low-acid food. For information, YouTube demonstrations and more, go to www.extension.umaine.edu

Try freezing

Because frozen beans retain more nutrients than those that are pressure cooked and canned, Kathy Savoie from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension office usually recommends folks try freezing. She shared how to prepare and freeze green beans:

Select a good green bean: Look for pods that are filled out, but tender and crisp. Remove and discard diseased and rusty pods.

Preparation: Wash beans, snip off and discard ends and remove strings, if necessary. Leave whole, or cut or snap into 1-inch pieces. Wash and drain prepared pieces.

To freeze: Blanch 6 cups of raw prepared beans at a time. Place each batch in 1 gallon of boiling water. Blanch small pieces 2 minutes and large pieces 3 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Cool quickly in several changes of cold water and then drain in a colander. Fill pint- or quart-sized freezer bags to a level of 3 to 4 inches from the top. Squeeze out air; leave 1-inch head space, label and freeze. Before freezing, bags may be packed into reusable rigid plastic freezer containers for added protection against punctures and freezer burn.

Tip: Don’t freeze more than 2 pounds of food per cubic foot of freezer capacity per day.


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