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Spice Up Spring Simply With Green Beans

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.

Recipes

Polenta with Green Beans, Mushrooms, Peas, and Leeks

This vegetarian main course is satisfying and flavorful.

6 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
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.

METHOD
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.

For more recipes, to go Page 2.

Green Bean Succotash

This shows how well green beans play with other vegetables.

6 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
8 ounces green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup frozen lima beans, thawed
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 2 medium ears)
3/4 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

METHOD
Blanch green beans until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool; drain.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add green beans and sauté 1 minute. Add lima beans, corn, and bell pepper. Sauté until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Mix in butter and Old Bay; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chicken with Haricots Vert and Lemon Butter

A simple lemon butter is a great topper for chicken and haricots verts. If you can't find haricots verts, look for slender green beans.

4 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
4 boneless chicken breast halves (with or without skin)
All purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 shallots, peeled, halved
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1 pound haricots verts, trimmed
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

METHOD
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; lightly dust with flour to coat. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and shallots; sauté until chicken is golden and just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate.

Melt butter in skillet with shallots over medium heat. Add lemon juice and lemon peel, then haricots verts; toss. Cover and cook until beans are crisp-tender and shallots are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Return chicken and any juices to skillet; sprinkle with chives. Simmer until sauce thickens enough to coat, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer chicken and vegetables to platter and serve.

Green Bean Salad with Radishes and Prosciutto

This recipe calls for aged Sherry (instead of vinegar), which gives the dressing an added kick.

6 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
8 radishes, sliced paper-thin
1 3-ounce package thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into thin strips
3 tablespoons aged Sherry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1/4 cup olive oil
1 2- to 3-ounce wedge ricotta salata (salted dry ricotta cheese)

METHOD
Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain well; cool. Toss beans, radishes, and prosciutto in large bowl. Whisk Sherry, mustard, and chives in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Toss salad with enough dressing to coat. Using vegetable peeler, shave ricotta salata in thin strips over salad.

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