Green(bean)ing the Thanksgiving table

I would wager the discussion happens in a large percentage of kitchens every Thanksgiving: “Well, we should have something green…” Then, this green item — in the sea of brown, beige , white and maybe orange dishes that crowd the Thanksgiving table (and plates) — may or may not happen. After all, you will have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and probably rolls. The green thing is an afterthought, a faint offering translating to a half-hearted attempt at health in all the overeating that is about to take place. Some may fulfill with a tossed salad, a Brussels sprout, a steamed broccoli, but some may never get to the green, either cooking, serving  or eating it. 

I’m guilty of this, too. My main duty to Thanksgiving is gravy, stuffing, gravy, cranberries and gravy. And maybe a pie or two. Otherwise, I feel no obligation. 

But the green shouldn’t be an obligation. Nor should it be, and I know I’ll draw protest here, a green bean or other vegetable turned into a brown item by drowning it in a can of cream of condensed soup and topping it with french-fried onions.

A green can be a bright welcome to the Thanksgiving plate, provided a delicious contrast in color, flavor and even temperature to the rest of the meal. Case in point is a dish I’ve been making a few years now — Citrus Green Beans with Pecan, a delightful recipe I found in Southern Living magazine.

This is a simple dish that comes together easily and fairly quickly, and can be made in advance — a day or two (or even three) before serving. Thin string beans (harticots verts) are flash cooked briefly in boding water, then blanched in cold ice water to preserve their crispness and bright color.

This no-fuss dish even included part of its preparation in a PLASTIC BAG, as the beans are mixed orange segments and a vinaigrette of olive oil with orange zest, orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, cane syrup (I have used both boney and agave nectar) and salt and pepper. The beans should marinate and chill for at least two hours.

Pour this into a platter, sprinkle with toasted chopped pecans, and that’s eat! One of the simplest sides of all! And there’s green (unbegrudingly) on the table!

The crunchy/fresh/cold/sweet/tangy tastes and textures of these greens beans are a great complement to all the rest on the plate’s golden brown bounty. 

Green Beans with Citrus and Pecans

From Southern Living magazine

Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup cane syrup 
  • 2 pounds haricots verts (thin green beans)
  • 2 oranges, sectioned
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Whisk together first 6 ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Cook green beans in boiling salted water to cover, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain.

Pat beans dry with paper towels. Place beans and orange segments in a zip-top plastic freezer bag; add vinaigrette, and seal bag. Turn bag to coat beans and oranges. Chill 2 hours. Sprinkle with pecans before serving.

Comments are closed.