Soft, tender, velvety, relaxed green beans
The built-in gardener at my house -- I highly recommend locating one of your own -- grows green beans of many colors and temperaments. He likes them all boiled quickly until crisp-tender with olive oil added at table, or sometimes he films them with butter browned in the cooking pan while the cooked beans drain briefly in a colander.
My own tastes in green beans are more catholic. (I've been waiting a long time to use that word in that way!) I like green beans cooked crisp-tender, tender-tender, soft, and all the way to mushy if the flavors are rich enough. The different preparations multiply the ways green beans hold my interest. The filet types, green and crunchy, seem a different animal from the velvety, smoked-pork infused, soft-cooked green beans of my Kentucky youth. Many of my best friends who were born outside the magical Commonwealth of Kentucky use one word for such beans -- "overcooked."
Imagine my delight at finding soft-cooked beans touted -- in notably seductive, sensual language -- in the Wednesday Dining & Wine section of the New York Times. Melissa Clark's "Good Appetite" column this week champions "Beans in Their Own Sweet Time," and includes a luscious recipe for Grilled Sausages and Summer Beans with Herbs, Tomatoes, and Caramelized Onions.
Savor this final paragraph describing the difference between some beans lifted out of the pot at the crisp-tender stage and those that went on soft Bean Glory (and a cook's tip of the hat to Melissa Clark for such toothsome prose):
At the table, piles of fragrant, herby beans sagged and relaxed on three plates while my friend's portion was perky and taut. Covered in sausage juices and smothered in sweet onions and racy tomatoes, the beans were all divine in their own way and we each got exactly what we wanted, at least when it came to dinner. And sometimes, that's enough.