Kitchen Curious: String beans star in early summer ragout

Easy vegetarian stew celebrates the garden bounty

The coronavirus has prompted many of us to try our hand at vegetable gardening or to approach the outdoor hobby with increased fervor this season.

Green beans are among the early summer crops that have flourished in my garden, thanks to frequent rain, Georgia heat and daily weeding-as-therapy sessions. The purple string bean bounty has me sifting through vegetable-centric cookbooks for creative ways to manage this veggie of the moment.

Cara Mangini offers a handful of simple yet flavorful preparations for string beans in “The Vegetable Butcher” (Workman, 2016), including Summer Bean Ragout. The thick French stew traditionally holds meat, poultry or fish, and may or may not include vegetables. Mangini opts for a vegetarian mix of beans, thickened with fresh tomatoes and enlivened with garlic, jalapeno, fresh herbs and white wine. If it had eggplant, zucchini, onions and sweet peppers, we could slap a ratatouille label on it. If it had potatoes and feta crumbles, it’d be more like a Greek fasolakia.

Mangini’s recipe is flexible. You don’t need multiple varieties of string beans to make the dish, although it would be more colorful. I stuck with my windfall of purple beans (which turn green when cooked). Also, because the tomatoes get cooked down, this is an instance when subbing canned tomatoes for fresh ones is an equal exchange in my estimation.

She pairs Summer Bean Ragout with corn fritters. I can picture it working similarly well on black bean patties. I ladled it over rotini because that twisty pasta offers plenty of nooks and crannies for the stew to cling to. Rice or couscous would be a good carb complement, too. Serve it as a side with grilled chicken or just scoop it up with crusty bread. One vegetable, so many summer-perfect preparations — and we haven’t even talked about pickling yet!

Excerpted from “The Vegetable Butcher” by Cara Mangini. Workman Publishing. Copyright 2016.

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