Monday, March 12, 2012

Birds or beans ?

The weather here is finally starting to feel spring-like, and nature is responding. You can see tulips and daffodils poking through their beds like little green thumbs up signs of approval. Trees are beginning to show the first nubs of flowering buds, and several new species of birds can be spotted . Birds have been one "thing" that my husband and I share an appreciation of. Birds, as a matter of fact , seem to appear or play a part of interesting moments of my like. Listening to the mournful sound of loons on family vacations and feeling a deep soul level comfort for some reason ( I now understand the why - not important). The hysterical fear/comedy on  the occasions that sparrows would fly down the furnace vents and suddenly appear in our house (and the pandemonium that was created in attempt to get them out and not "kill"us). Yes- birds will crack open your skull, suck out your brains and gouge out your eyes. Thank you Alfred Hitchcock for that mental image. Spending several peaceful afternoons watching hummingbirds with my husband ,basking in the knowledge that I was once again pregnant and this one was going to go the distance so to speak. Years later, waking to the sound of birds with my husband next to me, making weird jokes about "the noisy, pointy birds"who were not feeling content with our plans to lay there "just a little longer", and voicing a strong opinion about it. 

For the first time, we have an actual patio, and through the winter I have been tossing birdseed out , simply because I took a scene in Mary Poppins to close to heart as a child ( "feed the birds, tuppence a bag"). In return, the geese, ducks and sparrows have provided non stop entertainment . This is a very good thing because most TV these days has no appeal to us, and the birds provide instant inspiration for homeschool lessons.Over the past week new species have begun to appear, and the show is becoming more interesting. Over the weekend we began window shopping for patio furniture  , discussing possibilities for the space ( I want to grow some herbs and greens) , and a better system of feeding the birds. I sat contemplating, and wondering if I might have to choose between birds or beans.

Green beans that is. While many people think green beans are okay or must be covered in a cream sauce and topped with french onions, we have discovered a new  to us way of eating and loving them, and they can work hot or cold. There is an Italian name for these, but I cannot remember what it is. Let's just call it Green Beans with Basil and tomatoes

Green Beans with Basil and Cherry tomatoes

1-2 lbs of fresh green beans
1 pint grape tomatoes
8 leaves of basil, cut in ribbons
4 cloves of garlic, de-germed and chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter (NOT margarine, real butter)
salt and pepper to taste

Get a 3 quart pot and fill it with water. Bring it to a boil while you work and assemble a large bowl with ice water and something to strain beans out of. Then get a dutch oven and begin to heat it.Wash your green beans and pick through any that look not so great.
 Line them up so one side is even and cut off the end that has a stick/stem

then cut into bite sized sections

Keep doing this until you get em all done. I find putting on some music or a TV show makes the work go faster. Meanwhile, get a pint of those grape tomatoes
and slice those babies in half. Yes, time consuming, but let the lyrics of The Ting Tings or Elvis take you away as you work. Or listen to the sounds of the birds ! Next, grab some fresh basil
spend some quality time sniffing  and wondering if you can grow  it this big and beautiful with your low light situation. Snap off about 10 leaves, roll and cut into ribbons ( a chiffonad)

Let the aroma take you away- it really does ! Next , grab a head of fresh garlic,

 break it open to release the cloves, peel , de-germ and chop.
You will have everything ready , and the process goes quickly from here. Place some salt in your boiling water . Place the olive oil in the heated dutch oven. Place the beans in the water for one minute and toss the garlic into the oil and start to sweat. Remove the green beans from the boiling water after a minute and place in the ice water to shock. This keeps them bright green and pretty. Next add your tomatoes to the dutch oven, smashing them slightly to help release the juice. Add salt to taste. When the tomatoes are sweated and partially broken down, drain the beans and add to the tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes, adding a spoonful of the bean cooking water if it gets too dry. Add in the fresh basil, toss and serve .

This one is good warm or cold. And as to the beans, my son and I grew them indoors one year as a homeschool science project, and got enough beans to snack on one day. I cannot help but be curious as to how many beans I could grow on the patio, and how much the birds and squirrels might molest them in their visits to our low brow avian cafe ? Birds or beans- I am going to have to think about this one.

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