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Food and Drink

Dress up your green beans with lemon, coconut milk and spice

  • Author: Kim Sunée
    | Alaska cooking
  • Updated: September 3
  • Published September 3

Braised green beans with carrot and coconut (Photo by Kim Sunée)

I always feel a little frantic this time of year, making the most of preserving, pickling and general putting up of all sorts of late-summer fruit and vegetables. On the list this week: wild blueberry and lemon verbena freezer jam; quick soy sauce pickles; strawberries in a light lavender syrup; and carrot-top pesto to divide up into ice cube trays for sudden bursts of summer in the colder months ahead.

Piles of fresh green beans — aka string beans or haricots verts — have been all over the farmers markets and grocery stores. As much as I prefer to keep the cooking of fresh summer vegetables to a minimum, one of my favorite ways to treat green beans is in a slow-cooked bath of lemon and olive oil, sometimes with onion and tomato, and lots of fresh herbs. This version gets a little extra richness with the addition of coconut milk and deep flavor from turmeric and hot curry powder. Sometimes, depending on what I have on hand, I’ll add in carrot, cauliflower, corn or small new potatoes. This side dish travels well — it’s great hot or at room temperature — making it a great option for outdoor gatherings or desk-side lunches. It tastes even better the next day and will keep, covered, in the refrigerator up to several days.

Braised green beans with carrot and coconut

Makes 6 to 8 servings as a side dish

2 to 2 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed (see note below for frozen green beans)

1 medium onion, cut in half and both halves thinly sliced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (plus more thinly sliced for garnish)

1 (2-inch) piece ginger, grated or minced

1 tablespoon hot curry powder or garam masala

1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)

Juice of 1 large lemon (or lime or orange)

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

About 2 cups water or broth

2 medium carrots, sliced

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro, parsley, or dill

1 (14-ounce can) coconut milk, shaken

Optional garnishes: chopped red onion; lime wedges; chopped fresh jalapeños; chopped tomato; thinly sliced garlic, fresh herbs; toasted shredded coconut; toasted almonds

Rinse green beans and discard any that are mushy or brown. Snap or trim the stem ends; discard. Place trimmed green beans in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Add a layer of onion, scatter garlic, ginger and curry powder and turmeric, if using, over onions. Squeeze lemon juice over and about 1/4 cup good olive oil and 1 1/2 cups water or broth. You want enough liquid to braise the beans, just below half the amount of beans, but not to cover completely. Season generously with salt — start with 2 teaspoons — and pepper. Bring liquid to a low boil; reduce heat to medium-low (look for a few gentle bubbles on the surface); cover pot with lid and let beans cook over medium-low heat for about 50 minutes. No need to stir, but check every 20 minutes or so to make sure there’s at least a few inches of liquid in bottom of pot. Add liquid as needed. The beans should start to become very tender. Add carrots and fresh herbs. Let cook, partially covered, another 20 minutes.

Add coconut milk and stir gently. Let cook, uncovered, another 15 minutes or so. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice, as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature, and with some of the optional garnishes. Store, covered, in refrigerator up to 4 days.

Note: If using frozen thawed green beans, reduce cooking time; check after about 30 minutes before adding carrots. You can replace coconut milk with canned tomatoes and add at same time as onions and garlic. Add a handful of olives to braise. Top with feta or queso fresco.

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