At this time of year, my husband always reminds me of when we first started dating. I was living in a studio in Manhattan, a perfectly adorable space with a tiny separate kitchen and a brick wall (you have to live in NYC for a time before you understand the excitement of having a separate kitchen and a brick wall inside your apartment). In any case, it was February, nearing Valentine’s Day, and I asked if he could do me a favor.
“Sure,” he said. He was in love.
“I need you to help me take out my Christmas tree.” I was desperate.
“Your Christmas tree? Lee, it’s the middle of February,” he said.
“I took all the ornaments off, but it’s a little prickly, so I need some help.”
It was truly painful, but eventually we got it down the two flights of stairs and out to the curb. And every year since we’ve been married, he reminds me of that poor, prickly tree, and insists we take ours down by January 1.
But I love Christmas decorations; left to my own devices, I’d have those little twinkly lights up all year round. They just make me feel, well, twinkly. So I leave them up for all of January, along with various wreaths, and, okay, a few other festive odds and ends, and reluctantly take everything down at the end of the month. It’s easier to wrap my mind around the task when it’s 76 degrees out.
And now I’m going out to the store for some green beans. I came across a piece in a promo for Cook’s Illustrated, about what to do when you can no longer get those tender and delectable haricots verts, when all that’s available are the oversized, tougher versions. The answer is that you roast them.
I was doubtful, having too often bitten into the mature green beans, only to chew for a few seconds and then look around for a paper napkin so I could spit them out. But the Cook’s people sounded sure of themselves, and I was feeling really tired of broccoli and asparagus (yes, even asparagus), so I bought those big, fat, supermarket green beans. And was completely amazed. I got a half pound for the two of us for dinner, and they disappeared before I could get a third helping. Yup. Thirds.
So here it is, courtesy of Cook’s Illustrated.
Roasted Sesame Green Beans
1 pound green beans, stem ends snapped off
1 Tbl olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbl minced garlic (about 3 medium cloves)
1 tsp minced fresh ginger
2 tsp honey
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
4 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
Heat oven to 450º.
Spread beans in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle them with oil. Using your hands, toss the beans to coat evenly with the oil. [Kitchen Goddess note: The people at Cook’s recommend lining the sheet with foil. I did not and had no problem cleaning the pan after. And in line with my goop avoidance, I use a basting brush instead of my hands to spread the oil around.] Sprinkle the beans with salt and pepper, and roast in the center of the oven for 10 minutes.
While the beans are roasting, mix together the garlic, ginger, honey, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes in a shallow bowl.
Remove the beans from the oven, and using tongs, toss the beans in the garlic/ginger/etc. mix to coat them evenly. Resume roasting until the beans are golden brown in spots and starting to shrivel, another 10-12 minutes. While the beans are in the second round of roasting, toast the sesame seeds on the stovetop in a dry frying pan, with medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. This will take about 5 minutes, or until the seeds brown and become fragrant.
Adjust seasoning with salt, and toss the beans well again, to get all that good garlic/ginger incorporated. Transfer the beans to a serving dish and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.