This is the green bean salad I made for dinner last night.  It was simple, tasty, and didn’t require too much time with the stove lit, a necessity these hot, hot days of June.  (As I write this, at 10:33 p.m., it is still 92F in our bedroom.  No, we do not have air conditioning.)  The one necessary point of attention in this salad was the preparation of the beans.  Much cutting was involved!  I wish I had remembered to take a “before” photo in which you could see the size of the average bean: nearly 10 inches long, as big around as my thumb, pods bulging like arthritic knuckles.  These green beans did not come out of a freezer bag…

If I were guessing, they came from something similar to the bean tree that we had in my yard growing up.  A proper genus and species I cannot tell you, only that this thing was indestructible.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, could kill it.  We ignored it, thinking that lack of water could drive it to the compost pile.  My dad tried to dig it up multiple times, but it always came back.  He instructed me, at the tender age of 8, to run over it with the lawnmower.  That was my first summer with what I considered the privilege of mowing the lawn, mostly because we had a riding lawnmower and it was a close enough cousin to driving to make me feel very grown-up.  The thing was a four-speed manual transmission, and once I mastered the clutch-gas tension I would fly around the yard in 4th gear, which was aptly marked with the picture of a rabbit.  (As opposed to the tortoise, loitering down around 1st gear.)  Undoubtedly many states have laws against letting 8-year-olds drive riding lawnmowers, but this was a simpler time, when childhood labor was called “chores” and anyone who did not work their children regularly was considered overly indulgent.

Anyhow, I made it my goal that summer to drive over the stump of the bean tree every time I mowed the lawn.  Although it never got to be more than a two or three inch tall stalk that summer, the next spring it was back to full strength before the lawnmower woke from hibernation.  We decided to let it grow, and were rewarded with huge knobby brown pods that dried out quickly and crackled in our fists.  I dutifully mowed around the tree all that summer, the mower blade spewing out chewed-up chunks of woody pods, and my little brother developed a peculiar, incomprehensible, and ultimately saving love towards it.

We moved out of that house many years ago, but I assume it’s still there, surviving summer drought and winter snow and the latest home owner’s attempts to chop it down, poison the roots, or otherwise force it into any sort of submission.

How I made this dish:

I prepared the green beans by removing both ends and the strings, then slicing them lengthwise and then into inch-long pieces.  I placed them in a pot of boiling water until they were the softness that I like (that is, not very soft) and then dumped them into a colander and ran cold water over them to stop the cooking.

I sliced about ten cloves of garlic and a handful of almonds, which I toasted together to golden brown in a frying pan with olive oil and a little salt.

I diced two tomatoes, and once everything was slightly cool mixed all the ingredients together in a big bowl with more salt, pepper, juice of ¼ a lemon and a sprinkle of dried coriander, and threw it into the refrigerator until it was time to eat.

This idea was inspired by a recipe for Fasouliyeh Bez-Zeit found on Orange Blossom Water, whose thoroughness and attention to detail put most cookbooks to shame!


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