Green Beans Again!
Green beans originated in Peru and spread to South and Central America as Indian tribes migrated. Spanish explorers carried them back to Europe in the 16th century. From there, they were transported all around the world. Native Americans planted them along the rows of corn so the beans could weave their way up the corn stalks.
Green bean casserole was created in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly who worked for the Campbell Soup. Company. According to Wikipedia, in 2018 twenty million households served the casserole at their Thanksgiving Dinner. I’m afraid my household is not included in that count! For years, I made it, but ten years ago we decided it was no longer a favorite!
It is interesting to know that Reilly was challenged to create a recipe that would use ingredients that most Americans always had in the cupboards: Canned green beans and Cream of Mushroom Soup! She certainly created a winner!
While our family of five children was still at home, my dad grew enough green beans each year to allow Mother to can at least 100 quarts. That was no small task. I remember lots of times that we all sat under the shade tree in the front yard and snapped green beans! Thankfully, he grew the ‘string less’ kind and we didn’t have to mess with that part!
My brothers enjoy telling anyone who will listen … that I am their baby sister … and when it was time to pick green beans in the garden, Mother would perch me on an inverted bucket to sit like a princess, while they worked! I guess they are right, as I don’t have memories of picking the beans … just snapping them!
The favorite way of preparing green beans in Mother’s household … and certainly in mine … is to boil them with onions, potatoes and smoked meat. A ham hock is the most likely addition! I still love to do this when beans are in season and little new potatoes are still available. I can make this a meal. Just give me the saltshaker, more fresh onion and a nice piece of crusty bread! I’m happy! The bigger the batch the better!
However, cooking for one doesn’t require a giant batch, and I have discovered a different way to get the same wonderful flavors without having leftovers for a week. I sheet pan roast my beans, potatoes and onions.
My husband was a fan of cooking what he called ‘one-potters’! His favorite was a Dutch oven filled with Polish sausage, green peppers, onions, potatoes and tomato sauce. He also had a favorite pot, the Pyrex clear brown. He said he enjoyed watching the food as it cooked! You could see through the pot itself, not just the lid!
Sheet pan cooking is the modern version of one-potters! It was made popular beginning in 2009 when a New York Times food writer shared a recipe for sheet pan shrimp. By 2014, it was all the rage. For the same reasons we enjoyed cooking in one pot in the 1970s, today’s home cooks enjoy using one pan. Less mess, less time in the kitchen and flavorful combinations have made it a popular method of getting supper on the table!
I’m a fan, but I think it is easy to end up with a big fail! Everything can taste the same when you pile it on a sheet pan, spritz it with olive oil and leave it in the oven to blister. We used to hear that same complaint about a crock pot meal, and I don’t disagree with that! It is important to not overcook and to not smother your foods with too much oil and too much seasoning. Olive oil has a flavor all its own, so I frequently use canola oil instead. It doesn’t have flavor! I also make my own spice combinations so I can avoid salt. That might be a future column!
Pan Roasted Green Beans, Onions and Potatoes
Wash and clean all the vegetables. Use small potatoes and onions and they will roast in the same amount of time as the green beans!
Toss the vegetables in a light spritz of canola oil (not olive oil). Place a single layer on the sheet pan. You can cut the potatoes and onions into portions, if you think they are too big.
I use two seasonings on my vegetables: Pepper, and I like a lot of it. Butter Garlic Rub, and there are dozens of brands to choose from.
The last secret I’ll share with you is that I prepared a big batch of these last summer. I portioned them in single servings just for me and sealed them to freeze. They can be heated in a microwave or in the oven. I use my NuWave counter-top convection oven and in less than 5 minutes, they are ready to eat.
This column is part of my 2020 Vintage Vegetable project. If you’d like to see similar posts, just click the page tab in my menu. I’ll also be sharing this with some blog parties, so make sure you click through the list on my sidebar to visit!