The green contraption looked well-used, but its purpose remained a mystery.

Made of heavy cast iron, it had a crank, some serious cogs and gears, and openings that could have been vents, spouts or casings.

It was clearly an antique kitchen gadget, and a precursor of some sort to the Cuisinart, but its exact purpose wasn’t immediately apparent.

The annual family auction usually turns up an item or two like this, a kitchen tool that’s functionality was surpassed by newer tools so long ago that not only did no one recall using it, no one remembered seeing their parents or grandparents use it.

Galveston kitchen gadget maven Alicia Cahill, owner of The Kitchen Chick, challenged her customers to identify the antique. Their guesses ranged from popcorn popper to butter churn, though a few of the 20 or so came close enough to surmise that it had something to do with vegetables.

The big green machine was actually a green bean slicer, used by farm families to slice, or “French,” green beans into thinner strips. While it was a timesaver for a cook canning a winter’s worth of green beans in jars, a bean device isn’t really necessary for enjoying fresh green beans on a regular basis.

It used to be that one of the most time-consuming parts of cooking fresh green beans was snapping the ends and removing the strings along the sides.

Most of the varieties sold in the produce department or at farmers markets now are stringless or have thin strings that quickly cook as tender as the beans, so much less prep time is required.

There are a few pole bean varieties left that still have tough strings, but they’re generally easy to avoid because they will be labeled as string beans rather than green beans.

The ultimate in convenience is the pre-bagged green beans — sometimes sold under their French name, haricots verts — that microwave in a few minutes.

Loose green beans don’t take much more time, however, whether they are cooked in water, steamed in a steamer or quick-cooked in a microwave. When using the boiling-water method of cooking, nutritionists advise cooking in a small amount of water, generally only an inch or two.

Green beans steamed whole are one of the most child-friendly vegetables since they can be eaten as a finger food by the youngest members of the family. Some parents increase the beans’ appeal to young palates by sprinkling the cooked beans with a light dusting of grated Parmesan cheese.

When time isn’t the primary factor, roasting green beans instead of steaming them deepens the flavor, which can be accented by a favorite spice or, as in the Shawarma-spiced Chicken and Green Beans, a fragrant spice mixture.

The basic roasting technique is to use a hot oven — 425 degrees — and a tablespoon of olive oil for every pound of green beans. After tossing the beans with the oil, they should be spread out on a baking sheet and roasted for 15 minutes, turning them halfway through.


Fresh Green Bean Salad with Crumbled Feta Vinaigrette

SERVES: 8

  • 1⁄3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds thin green beans, trimmed
  • 1⁄2 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1⁄4 or 2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1⁄2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup parsley, chopped
  • Place the olive oil and oregano in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Set the seasoned olive oil aside.

Bring a large pan of water to boil over high heat. Add the green beans and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, uncovered, until the beans turn bright green and are crisp but tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain the beans immediately, then run cold water over them to cool them down. Pat the beans dry with paper towels and set aside.

Place the onion and bell pepper in the bowl with the seasoned olive oil and stir to combine. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and feta cheese. Toss the beans with the feta vinaigrette.

Just before serving, top the salad with the toasted walnuts and parsley, if desired.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “What Can I Bring?” by Anne Byrn)

Shawarma-spiced Chicken and Green Beans

  • SERVES: 4
  • 1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 (3⁄4 pound) bone-in chicken breasts, skinned and cut crosswise in half

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spray a large shallow roasting pan with nonstick spray.

Stir together ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice, coriander, cumin and cayenne in a cup.

Toss together green beans, 1 teaspoon of oil and half of spice mixture in prepared pan. Push the beans to one side of the pan.

Add the remaining teaspoon of oil to the remaining spice mixture, mixing until it forms a paste. Rub the spice mixture all over chicken. Arrange the chicken, meaty side up, alongside beans in pan.

Roast the chicken, turning the green beans occasionally, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast — not touching bone — registers 165 degrees and beans are tender, about 35 minutes.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “The Weight Watchers One Pot Cookbook”)


Paprika Shrimp and Green Bean Sauté

SERVES: 6

  • 4 cups green beans, trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1⁄4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 pound medium-size raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 16-ounce cans large butter beans or cannellini beans, rinsed
  • 1⁄4 cup sherry vinegar or red-wine vinegar
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put the green beans in a steamer basket, place in the pan, cover and steam until tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and paprika and cook, stirring constantly, until just fragrant but not browned, about 20 seconds.

Add the shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 2 minutes per side.

Stir in the beans, vinegar and salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir in 1⁄4 cup parsley.

Divide the green beans among 6 plates. Top with the shrimp mixture. Sprinkle with pepper and the remaining 1⁄4 cup parsley.

(SOURCE: Recipe from “The Eating Well Healthy in a Hurry Cookbook”)

 

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