Going green: Fresh-picked beans one of the pleasures of summertime eating
If I had to pick one produce item that embodied the flavor of summer, it would have to be the green bean.
Back in the day when I had a garden in my backyard, I always planted a couple rows of beans, rejoicing in the first harvest of the season and agonizing when the pesky grasshoppers started to take a bite out of my crop. Now, I purchase my green beans at the farmers markets, leaving those mood swings to other growers. Occasionally, I’ll come home with a bag of the yellow wax beans, but really prefer the green variety.
Even though I like my beans simply prepared, after a few weeks of consuming them as a side dish at every meal, I feel the need to vary my repertoire.
One such preparation is what we call Chicken in the Garden. It’s a packet supper — a complete meal wrapped in a foil pouch that uses whatever produce has been freshly picked from the garden, hence the name.
The original recipe is included in the cookbook my late mother, Dorthy Rickers, compiled from all the recipes she printed in her column of the same name, “Mixing & Musing.” A few years ago, I came across a slightly different variation that uses ramen noodles.
The other go-to green bean preparation at our abode is also from “Mixing & Musing.” Mom always referred to it as “Depression Dish” — maybe because it was something people made back in that era to stretch a bit of bacon into a meal? — but retitled Old Fashioned Green Beans and Potatoes for the book.
And the third rec for grilled beans is one that has made the rounds on social media and comes recommended by a friend.
Chicken in the Garden
For each person
1 chicken breast
A selection of fresh vegetables, diced or sliced, such as: potato, tomato, onion, mushrooms, carrot, green beans or whatever you have on hand
2 tablespoons quick-cooking rice
1 teaspoon (I use more, probably 1 tablespoon) Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Spray a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil with cooking spray. In the center of the foil, place the chicken breast and surround it with the assortment of vegetables. Sprinkle with the rice, Worcestershire and seasonings and dot with butter. Fold foil to create a secure packet.
Cook on grill or in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour (depending on size of chicken breast), turning the foil packages every 20 minutes. Slide the contents of each packet onto plate for serving.
VARIATION: Break in half the noodles from a ramen noodle soup packet. Place one-half of the noodles on the foil and sprinkle with a bit of water before placing chicken breast on top. Continue as directed above, omitting the potato and rice. Use some of the ramen seasoning packet (be sparing as it contains a lot of sodium) to sprinkle over top of the vegetable mixture.
Old-Fashioned Green Beans
4 strips bacon, diced
4 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and halved
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup diced potatoes
¾ cup sliced green onions
In large skillet, cook diced bacon for 5 minutes or so. Drain off part of the bacon drippings. Stir in green beans, water, salt and pepper. Simmer 2 or 3 minutes. Add potatoes and onions. Stir well. Simmer about 15 minutes, until potatoes and beans are tender.
Grilled Green Beans
8 ounces trimmed green beans
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients except the Parmesan in a large zip-close bag. Let flavors marinate for 10 minutes or more.
Remove beans from mixture and cook on grill over medium heat (use a grill skillet or cast iron pan to keep beans from falling through cracks) until tender crisp, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan.