Evolution of a Recipe

One of the more interesting things about cooking is the way some small tweaks can fundamentally change a recipe. My object in telling you all this is to encourage people to cook more and play around. You needn’t be a slave to The Recipe!

It’s green bean time in most of the northern bits of North America (I expect they’re all drowned in Europe), and this is a recipe I like with barely ripe green beans. If you use the small diameter (i.e. no beans showing) all you have to do is end the beans. If you use riper beans you’ll want to julienne them.

The original recipe came from Anna Getty’s Easy Green Organic, Chronicle Books 2010. The version I first saw was from 101cookbooks.com “Feisty Green Beans“. My version is VERY similar to Heidi Swanson version, but I play with it all the time, as you’ll see.

Essentially the Swanson version is a vegan meal. And it tastes good. But usually I don’t have tofu handy, and frankly I’m not that much of a fan of the stuff. What’s more the recipe looks to me suspiciously like it was inspired by an Indian recipe. So my fave accompaniment is barbecued chicken (boneless skinless thighs over charcoal is best).

My next swap was ground chipotle for paprika. I use paprika if out of chipotle, but I prefer the slightly smoky taste of the chipotle.

I also sub in just about any dried fruit at hand. Often this is dried apricots, but I’ve used, figs, dates and even prunes.

A much more important modification though is I re-hydrate the fruit in wine. Use a dry white table wine if you like, but the all time best is a good fino or amontillado sherry. Cover the fruit with the wine and set it aside when you start your prep. It will soak up pretty much all of it.

As a nutty guy (nyuck!) I also sub peanuts with regularity, even resorting to dry roasted salted Planters if that’s all I’ve got. (This last one worked WAY better than you might think.) Toasted almonds though are brilliant.

Finally, as creme fraiche is not usually in my fridge I go for non-fat yoghurt, something all Indian cooks would approve.

I halved the beans, because I only cook for two, and kept the sauce the same. Furthermore, I approach the sauce as just that: I cook the beans and pour the sauce over them as it seams to coat them better than trying to stir a pound of beans in the sauce in the pan.

So here’s my finished recipe. It’s dead easy, takes maybe 15 minutes of prep and another ten to cook. Try it, you’ll like it.

200 g / 1/2 lb. green beans french cut
6 Oz firm tofu (optional)

Sauce
1/2 a cooking onion diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
3 bay leaves
50 mls raisins or dried apricots (diced)
a glass or two of fino sherry
50 ml fat free yoghurt
olive oil

Spice
2.5 ml chipotle 1/2 tsp
2.5 ml crushed chili peppers 1/2 tsp
2.5 ml curry powder 1/2 tsp
5 ml ground coriander 1/2 tsp
5 ml ground cummin 1 tsp

Topping
50 ml toasted almonds 1/3 cup
125 ml chopped fresh coriander AKA cilantro 1/2 c.

Cover a pre-heated skillet bottom with oil, then brown onion and garlic with the bay leaves. Add fruit and unabsorbed wine, and then cover bottom of skillet to about a couple of millimeters (1/8 inch) with more wine if needed. Reduce till maybe only a third of the skillet is covered with wine.

Remove bay leaves. Add yoghurt, and stir. Add spicing and stir thoroughly. Pour sauce over plate on which the cooked (!! Cook the beans before starting the sauce! Then warm the Tofu in the pan you cooked the beans in, if going the tofu route.) beans. Sprinkle the almonds and cilantro on top, and serve.

As you can see the changes are relatively minor (sherry for wine, apricots for raisins, peanuts for almonds, no tofu) but the end result is different enough to please me.

Feel free to copy the recipe either slavishly or modify it to suit yourself.

FWIW I serve it with a nice chilled Orvieto classico.

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