Perfect Green Beans (with Aioli)

Green beans (Kentucky Blue) from my garden.

I have a small garden with only a few places with really good, sunny exposure. I sow green pole beans every spring in one of those sunny places and every year I’m taken aback by how delicious they are. Once they start producing I pick them twice a day–first thing in the morning and just before it’s too dark to see. I only have about seven plants that have wound their way up their strings along my fence but I managed to pick about a pound over a four-day period.

Aioli with green beans.

My favorite thing to do with these tender things is to make aioli (garlicky mayonnaise) and dip the perfectly cooked beans (by which I mean four minutes in salty, rapidly bowling water) into the aioli. I recently ate three-quarters of a pound of beans in a single sitting. My boys got a few but they don’t rhapsodize about them quite like I do so everyone was happy.

 

I know I’ve written about aioli here before but here are some photos to go with it.

2 beautiful yolks, 2 cloves of garlic (much less than is traditional but I like a slightly milder aioli), and fresh lemon juice–the foundation for aioli.

You can use a mortar and pestle to mash the garlic with some coarse salt (gives it the texture you need to mash it well) or just do it on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife as I’ve done here. Just chop the garlic cloves first, sprinkle generously with coarse salt and then lay the side of the knife on top of the garlic, push down and pull the knife (dull side) toward you. Repeat until you have a nice paste. It takes a little practice but once you have it down it’s a quick way to get a good, homogenous paste.

Aioli 

2 egg yolks (preferably organic)

2 medium/large cloves  garlic (or more if you like it stronger)

lemon juice (1/2 to a whole lemon’s worth depending on your taste)

coarse fleur de sel (or any good sea salt)

freshly ground pepper

1/2 – 3/4 neutral oil like sunflower

1/3 cup good tasting olive oil (if your oil is quite strong/bitter it will make the aioli bitter)

 

Mash garlic to a paste with salt (either in mortar and pestle or with a knife –see note above). Put garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Add the egg yolks and 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice and some black pepper. Whisk well. Then start adding the olive oil drip by drip or in a very thin stream at first. You’ll need to incorporate about 1/4 cup of oil like this before you can safely speed things up. This is the most important step in ensuring that it properly emulsifies and doesn’t break. Incorporate the rest of the olive oil and neutral tasting oil (it can get too bitter if you use just olive oil, though this is a non-traditional approach but one I like) and adjust seasoning with more lemon and/or salt.

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