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.
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.