Basil Beans

Spoon up some veggies for me ma

By Katherine

One of my favorite side dishes growing up was simple and far from gourmet. My mom called them basil beans. Basically, she’d take some onion, saute it in margarine add some canned green beans, dried basil, salt and pepper. I could eat the whole thing, but with five sisters usually had some competition.

One of the things Greg and I haven’t been able to embrace about Southern cuisine is the way green beans, squash and other vegetables are often cooked — or overcooked. My father, a native of Georgia, once teased Greg for leaving some crunch in the zucchini he served. This was after he watched Greg making braciole, stared down at the pot and said “I thought we were having meatballs.” Greg’s smart, he’d already made meatballs too.

The next time dad was down I asked if he wanted to cook the squash, which he did, and did, and did some more. Lots of butter, no crunch. Just perfect for him. I took a pass, I’d already given up and eaten by then.

A few years later, I was flipping through a circa 1960s cookbook of mom’s. The cover is long gone, but there among the recipes for tomato aspic, Texas hash and Peach Melba was mom’s recipe for basil beans.

Here’s mine:

Green Beans with Basil

  • 1 lb fresh green beans, snapped in half and ends trimmed
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • salt/pepper to taste

Steam beans to desired crispness and set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet and saute onion until tender. Stir in pesto and beans, tossing to coat. Remove from heat and stir in fresh basil and season with salt and pepper.

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About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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34 Responses to Basil Beans

  1. Kas says:

    Green beans are one of my favorite veggies, and I just bought some beautiful fresh ones at the farmer’s market, so I can’t wait to try this!! Good timing :)

  2. nrhatch says:

    Love fresh green beans . . . as long as people don’t cook them for hours before deciding their “done.”

  3. peasepudding says:

    Nice way to revamp an old favourite! My parents used to cook veg to death too, now my Dad always checks with me if they are crunchy enough…bless

  4. I was raised on Southern green beans, cooked three or four days with bacon until they turned black. I couldn’t believe anyone would eat them and only liked frozen green beans almondine then because at least you could tell the green beans were green beans. Now I steam green beans with shredded fresh basil and let it go at that.

  5. Tandy says:

    Beans have to be crunchy! I just cannot do overcooked veg :)

  6. A friend from Tennessee visited me in Australia and she wanted to cook “Southern” green beans for John. The house smelled of bacon for hours and he took one look and said, “what is it?” He couldn’t tell they were beans!

    Every once in a while I ask if he’d like some of Carolyn’s Southern beans and he’s yet to say yes. :)

    Your mother’s basil beans sound delicious. I’d use fresh too.

  7. This sounds very yummy, Katherine! Delicious :)

  8. Mad Dog says:

    Your way sounds great ;-)
    My parents cooked everything until it was soggy or burnt (yuck) – I’ve always thought that people got used to soggy veggies from the tinned variety…

  9. I love this idea. My hubby would ask if the beans are squeaky… :-) Mandy

  10. Your Mom used dried basil? And onion?
    Gosh, were you ever lucky! We got beans out of the can, plus (more) salt…
    I’ve been sauteing my frozen ones all winter, in butter and garlic…will have to add a bit of pesto next time!

  11. Totally agree. There’s got to be some crunch of freshness.

  12. Eva Taylor says:

    My Mom’s best friend who was British and my dear MIL (who was of British decent) also cooked and cooked and cooked their food. The most unfortunate was the Sumday roast! Blech!
    I had no idea you could get green beans in a tin!

  13. One of my favorite things! And I like how you guys are putting basil in lots of things again :)

  14. Yeah, as a kid, I hated eating greens at my friends’ houses because they were so wilted and boiled down that all flavor was gone. Unfortunately, this meant that most greens had an over-abundance of vinegar in them to compensate. Blech.

  15. ceciliag says:

    Well, my basil is just coming up and my beans have a ways to go however this recipe is so simple that i can remember it for when they are ready. i am always looking for another way to serve beans! My Mum used to have two different pots of each veg when Grandma used to visit. One for us and a little pot for grandma’s which she started way ahead of time. Mum liked crunch too and said that grandma may as well just drink the vege water from her overcooked pots of mushy veg. grandma would just smile. She liked her food sloppy! c

  16. niasunset says:

    I love this so much, when I was in Milan, every time I bought them in the market. My son he loves too… We have here too, but it was much more seen in Italian markets… Thank you for this delicious recipe. Do you know dear Katherine, I cook as yours and leave it to cool… then I mix with yogurts (but a little bit with garlic) and serve like that… it is served cold… Wonderful taste… Love, nia

  17. billpeeler says:

    I’ve never heard of basil beans and would never think to put those flavors together. But it sounds like they’re delicious. I also grew up on overcooked veggies like you describe. With lots of butter. While I’m glad my tastes and cooking have evolved from that – it still brings back memories and makes me miss home sometimes.

  18. This sounds amazing. I have been impatiently bean-watching, (so far only the slightest suggestion of beans on the vine).Now I’ll be thinking of this recipe as I stare at those plants!

  19. Kristy says:

    Basil beans…I’ve never heard of that combo. Might get me to eat more green beans though. ;)

  20. (Whispers..) Your basil beans sound far more appealing than your mum’s.. (we’re not allowed to say these sorts of things too loudly..) :)

  21. I have lots of fresh basil. What a great way to use it!

  22. Green beans and pesto certainly works for me:)

  23. Good recipe and great looking beans!

  24. A lovely way to cook beans…yum! And here in Spain they tend to boil them to death too :(

  25. Courtney says:

    We definitely prefer a little crunch in our veggies, too! Overcooked is just blecky. (that’s a technical term)

  26. Once at a family dinner at a restaurant my grandfather sent his broccoli back to the kitchen 4 times because it wasn’t (over)cooked enough for him! I, on the other hand, prefer a crisp vegetable ;) I will definitely be bookmarking this one!

  27. egg me on says:

    I love green beans, and this looks like a great, simple recipe. Isn’t it funny how growing up canned beans were the norm? Such a 70s/80s thing, when convenience ruled. I’m glad our generation is bringing fresh veggies back to the table.

  28. Jessica says:

    These sound like they would taste so greeny fresh! I also grew up on canned green beans and even…canned asparagus. My mom claims she didn’t know that fresh asparagus existed.

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