Yes, it is French for green beans–and they are Phaseolus vulgaris, but they are special green beans–not like Kentucky Wonder, or some of the other rather common beans. To find them in the seed catalogue you need to look for “filet” beans. They are bush beans, but the pods are small and slender (when harvested appropriately). Not having a large garden, I don’t grow my entire supply of green beans–the usual pole beans or bush beans like Kentucky Wonder–I buy some from the farmers’ market and I even use frozen ones in the wintertime.
These little beans are something that does get space in my garden or in a container on my deck–with successive plantings throughout the summer so that I can dash out and pick a single-serving batch when I want them.
My favorite way to cook them is to steam them very briefly (about 5 minutes) until just tender, shock them in ice water so that they stay brilliant green, and toss them with some extra-virgin olive oil infused with fresh herbs, and served at room temperature. A favorite of mine for those hot summer days when you’re being fussy about what you eat.
Since I do grow a lot of herbs on my deck with containers arranged on the stairway, and since I prefer not to let them bloom since that affects the flavor of the herb, I keep them cut back to prevent blooming–or grow varieties that do not bloom as readily as the common culinary herbs. I find that I often need to give the marjoram and the oregano a “butch” cut. This does not involve a neat trim–it’s taking the hedge shears with the long blades and lopping off the tips. That leaves me with a handful of fresh herbs to share with my neighbors, or to use to make herb-infused oils to have on hand, and to use during the wintertime.
It’s simple to make herb-infused oils. For immediate use, you can simply blanch the herbs, then “shock” in ice water, squeeze dry, and purée with enough oil to make a slurry, then add more oil. Let stand, refrigerated, for 24 hours and strain through coffee filter. These can keep for about a week, refrigerated.
For longer storage, I prefer to heat the herbs in oil to about 185 to 195° F and then strain. At that temperature, you should be safe from any bacterial growth. The last batch of oil that I prepared, I washed, blanched and dried the herbs; then chopped them and popped them into my very small slow cooker overnight, and then strained them. This oil is probably not as bright green as it would be had I not heated it for that long, but the aroma is really great.
My favorites with the haricots verts is either sweet marjoram, or Syrian oregano (also sometimes known as zaatar). Both of these herbs seem to intensify the sweetness and the “bean-ness” of the haricots.
Most herbs lend themselves well to making flavored oils: sage, oregano, thyme–whatever is your favorite–try different ones with the beans, and vary it according to the flavors of other dishes served at the same time.
A son goût!