There’s a lot of treachery when it comes to substitutions in recipes. “Hide sweet potatoes in the brownies, your kids will never notice!” “These zucchini noodles taste just as good as real noodles but with half the calories!”
Me? I’m all for transparency when it comes to the things that I cook. And that’s why I recommend tossing your green beans in pesto. You’re not pretending that the green beans are anything they’re not — “If you close your eyes, they taste just like French Fries!” — what you see is what you get.
I’m pretty sure I got this idea from Lidia Bastianich (I watch her show religiously on PBS every Saturday). Here’s what you do: first you make a pesto.
I make mine by tossing a handful of walnuts from the freezer (about 1/4 cup; I keep them in the freezer so they don’t turn rancid) into a small skillet and I toast them until they’re fragrant and golden brown. I put them in a food processor with four fat cloves of garlic and pulse with some salt. Then I add handfuls and handfuls of something green — basil leaves, arugula, even carrot tops would work — about 4 cups total and I start pulsing that along with about 3/4 cup of olive oil that I drizzle in as it’s whirring.
At this point, your pesto won’t taste like much: that’s why you have to adjust with lots of salt, lemon juice, and about 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan. Pulse that all in and taste. It should be a “whoah” moment when you’re finished.
And then you just blanch and shock some green beans or runner beans. (I realize that the title of this post implies, like, white beans: and you can do that too.) The first time I did this, I did it with haricot verts from the farmer’s market.
I dropped them in rapidly boiling salted water, let them cook for 2 minutes, and then shocked them in ice water. I drained them very well and then tossed with the pesto.
I also added a little more olive oil, lemon juice, and salt just to make the beans pop. They were incredibly good.
Then, the other day I was at Cookbook in Echo Park, and I saw these gorgeous runner beans.
So I did exactly the same thing with them: I blanched them, shocked them, and tossed them with pesto. I served ’em up with seared swordfish and a lemon wedge, with lots of pesto to spoon on top of the fish (I know, I know, cheese and fish, but who’s watching?).
These were both tremendous dinners that were mostly healthy and very, very summery.
So don’t trick your dinner guests into eating anything. Be honest and toss your beans in pesto. They’ll thank you for it, I guarantee.