Spice Up Spring Simply With Green Beans

Dede Wilson
You've always been told to eat your veggies, and a new set of spring recipes may just make that more enjoyable.

Dede Wilson, a contributing editor of Bon Appetit magazine, shared on The Early Show Wednesday ideas on dishes that come alive with a common vegetable: the green bean.

Green beans -- despite their name -- can grow in yellow and purple varieties. Green beans were originally called string beans, Wilson said, because of the tough string that has been bred out of the most common varieties.

So now, preparation of green beans is simple, according to Wilson, who suggests you "snap off the tough stem ends and leave the pretty, tapered tails."

Wilson recommends buying beans that have a full, even color and feel firm. She added that beans should snap when broken in half, and the insides should be crisp and juicy.

"Any sign of beans bulging inside probably mean that the pods are too mature to be crisp and tender, so look for younger ones," Wilson says.

Unwashed green beans will keep in the fridge for up to a week if sealed in plastic, though it's best to use them within a few days of buying them.

Green are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, plus potassium and iron, and contain omega-3 fatty acids. Wilson adds that eating green beans may also help boost energy levels, as well as cardiovascular and bone health.


Polenta with Green Beans, Mushrooms, Peas, and Leeks

This vegetarian main course is satisfying and flavorful.


3/4 pound green beans, trimmed
1 cup fresh shelled peas (12 to 14 ounces in pods)
4 cups whole milk
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups polenta (coarse cornmeal)*
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only; about 2 medium)
1 1/2 cups dry white vermouth
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms (such as crimini, small portobello, and shiitake), stemmed, caps cut into wedges
3 large shallots, sliced (about 3/4 cup)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

* Sold at some supermarkets and at natural foods stores and Italian markets. If unavailable, substitute an equal amount of regular yellow cornmeal and cook about half as long.

Blanch green beans 1 minute in boiling water. Add peas and cook until both beans and peas are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain. Cut beans on diagonal into 1-inch pieces. Set beans and peas aside.

Bring milk and broth to boil in large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Gradually whisk in polenta. Reduce heat to low. Cook until polenta is very thick, whisking almost constantly, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, combine leeks and vermouth in medium saucepan. Boil over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, 8 minutes. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in butter, allowing each addition to melt before adding next. Add cream and whisk over very low heat to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until almost tender, 5 minutes. Stir in shallots, 1 tablespoon parsley, and thyme. Sauté until mushrooms are very tender, about 5 minutes. Add beans and peas, tossing to coat.

Re-warm polenta and spoon into large shallow bowl. Top with green bean mixture and remaining 1 tablespoon parsley. Re-warm leeks over low heat, whisking constantly; spoon evenly over polenta.

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