Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: Romano beans are working hard to earn a spot in your kitchen -- they can do everything your standard green beans can do, and more.
What sets Romano beans apart from other types of green beans? Their flatter (1) form and meatier texture. Green beans are members of the legume family (along with shelling peas, snow peas, and snap peas), and you might find them labeled as snap beans or string beans. Fun fact: If the name string bean conjures up visions of standing over your kitchen sink tediously pulling off tough strings, you can forget it -- most modern varieties of string beans don’t actually need to have the string removed.
A cross-section of Romano beans will reveal tiny bean seeds (2) inside. All green beans are harvested before the seeds are too developed (after all, green beans are simply the unripe form of dried common beans). The smaller the seed, the better, but Deborah Madison finds that romano beans remain quite tender even as the seeds get larger. Look for small bright green beans that snap easily when bent -- leave limp ones behind. You'll probably find green-colored Romano beans most frequently, but they do come in yellow and purple varieties too (which, like other purple vegetables, sadly lose their color once cooked). Store them in the refrigerator for a few days in a plastic bag.
Working Romano beans into your repertoire is pretty easy: just use them anywhere you’d use other types of green beans. They're delicious raw, or lightly cooked, and their meaty texture also lends well to longer cooking preparations. Add Romano beans to soups, pasta dishes, or grain salads, or try them in a frittata. Grill them. Deep-fry them. Here's our plan to make the most of Romano beans, all week long:
Friday: Long Cooked Romano Beans with Pancetta
Saturday: Cherry Bombe’s Same Ki Bhaji
Sunday: Braised Romano Beans with Tomatoes
Monday: Asian Garlic Green Beans
Tuesday: Green Beans Vinaigrette
Wednesday: Romano Beans with Hazelnuts and Smoked Paprika
Thursday: Romano Bean Salad with Tomato Garlic Vinaigrette
Photos by James Ransom