In Season

The CSA Chronicles, Week 5: Full of Beans

(Stephanie Witt Sedgwick)
By Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This summer and fall, In Season columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick is sharing her experiences as a member of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. CSA members pay in advance for a weekly delivery or pickup of produce and other fresh items from a local farm.

Here is her quick take for the week. Check out her recipe for Italian Green Beans With Tomatoes and Garlic, which uses ingredients from her CSA bag, and watch for her column the first Wednesday of every month in Food.

Part of the fun of CSA life is trying things you would not have bought if left to your own devices. For me, it started with Swiss chard, a vegetable I had never tried and I now love. This week brought me another new treat: Italian flat green beans. Traditional string beans were one of my mother's favorites when I was a kid, and in season I buy them out of habit more than anything. I'm not even sure I really like them, but I buy them because it's so ingrained in my cooking and eating history to prepare them.

I would never have chosen the funny-looking Italian flat beans, but they were there in the bag waiting for me. Each bean was somewhere between 6 and 8 inches long, about ¾-inch wide and, as the name suggests, relatively flat compared with the traditional green bean.

I decided to try a quick-cooking variation on braised green beans Italian-style. My beans were fresh and young and needed only a short blanching in boiling salted water. While the beans cooked, I let thin slices of garlic soften with olive oil over low heat. I added some diced tomato and then the blanched green beans. A few minutes of cooking to let the flavors come together, a topping of basil shreds, and the dish was done. The beans were tender, almost sweet, and the combination of garlic, tomato and basil complemented their flavor. I have only one word for them: delicious.

Now I'm a convert. The next time I see those beans in my bag or at a farm stand, I'll know what a find I've made.

In the CSA bag this week: three red tomatoes, two yellow tomatoes, two thin eggplants, one pound of Italian flat green beans, three onions, two green bell peppers, one bunch of Swiss chard, one bunch of escarole, one pound of golden potatoes and a generous handful of basil.

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