The other day I foolishly bought some fresh green beans because they were ridiculously cheap. Foolish because just a day or so before I had bought a packet of them. For lots of vegetables this would not be a problem, but beans go off pretty fast, and so they must be used.
Now in my visits to France in the Loire valley, they had a vegetable garden. Well many, many village French people have vegetable gardens. And I was always there at the time of year that the beans were producing. Every day Monsieur Coutant would go out into the garden and bring back an enormous basket of beans. We would all then sit around the kitchen table, topping and tailing them, and for lunch (I think it would have been lunch, but maybe it was dinner), after the meat course, we would be served a big plate of garlicky, buttery beans. I adored them and have tried to reproduce the taste ever since. And have never succeeded. It must be either the beans themselves or the butter. That's what I tell myself anyway, although my oldest grandson told me that he really liked them cooked this way, so I suppose that's something. It was also my introduction to vegetables being served as a complete course in themselves and not just as an accompaniment to the meat.
In England what I remember about beans are the scarlet runner beans that we used to grow in the garden. And also buy. Now these are a different creature. Much larger and rougher. You have to cut the outside edges off and then slice them lengthways before just boiling them. The beans inside are purple on the outside and pale green on the inside. I guess most gourmets would dismiss these as too stringy and tasteless, but I remember the taste very clearly. If you pick the beans before they get too stringy they have a delicate, green taste which is quite delicious. You can't get them here. I have grown them, but in recent years my efforts at growing beans have been disastrous. I think I got about two bean pods last time I tried.
Anyway I have all these beans - so what to do with them that isn't just an accompaniment to something else? Well I think for the last ones left I shall pickle them with some other vegetables, but in the meantime whilst they are still fresh I think I have perhaps two or three options. There is soup - in particular Soupe au Pistou - which is a soup of mixed beans - dried and fresh with a pesto added at the end. But I have no basil so I can't do that today.
And I forgot to mention that I have taken a chicken breast out of the freezer, so I shall have to use that too. There is always pasta of course. Mix the chicken with the beans, bacon, lots of garlic and cheese and that would be pretty good I think. With some peas or tomatoes too? Maybe.
But what about something Asian? A curry? A simple one with maybe a few tomatoes too, or a stir-fry kind of thing. We have a favourite chicken and noodle stir-fry dish to which I could add some beans, But it requires a Thai curry paste and I don't have any or the ingredients to make one. I could make a curry though.
I did try to find a recipe for a dish that featured beans, but it's amazing really how few of these there are. When I checked in my ingredient focussed books, I don't think any of them really had a dish with beans as part of a main dish with some kind of meat. Virtually all of the recipes provided were for beans as a side dish or a salad. The nearest to a main dish was soup. Why is this? I mean there's nothing wrong with beans taste-wise, and they are extremely nutritious. Beans are some of the most nutritious vegetables there are. Indeed if you are a vegetarian I can imagine you eat quite a lot of them. So it's a mystery. And an opportunity for somebody.
For me - I'm still dithering.