Awesome Green Bean Festival

Ihe concept behind this strange culinary adventure was born during the January 2003 iteration of the Rat Pack's monthly Thursday night outing to Sullivan's steak house. While perusing the menu over an early round of martinis, one of our party, perhaps a bit weary of the standard creamed spinach and horseradish mashed potatoes, asked our waitress for her asessment of the green beans. Her unflinching reply is indissolubly recorded in the Rat Pack archives: "The green beans," Melissa bubbled, "are awesome."

Of course, we were all more or less familiar with this nonstandard usage, intended, as I understand it, to mean "in possession of some positive but otherwise unspecified quality." Nonetheless, the very idea of an awesome green bean was intriguing. For me, it revived a distant memory of a Thanksgiving dinner in the mountains of West Virginia, where I enjoyed an intensely flavorful pot of beans cooked slowly in bacon fat, a treatment to which the tough variety indigenous to that region lends itself especially well. Reed, meanwhile, was reminded of a spicy Schechuan rendition that he had once encountered during his travels, and Bevier's thoughts turned to Chicago's Greektown. After a session of swapping stories along these lines over another round of martinis, our reaction to the rather ordinary plate of beans that Melinda finally delivered from the kitchen was something less than awe.

The entire incident could easily have been lost forever, like so many other drunken Thursday night discussions, if not for Tim's proposal to host a dinner to which each us who were in attendance that evening would be invited to contribute a dish of green beans of his own creation, with Melinda's hyperbole serving as inspiration. The event was a resounding success, and thanks to Tim's vision and persistence, the Awesome Green Bean Festival is now an annual tradition.

Our original intention was to compile the recipes of each dinner. This lasted three years:

Recently, it occurred to me that there is an opportunity here for a book. (I've seen sillier culinary themes in book stores.) This is still in the early planning stages -- the table of contents is taking shape, but only a few of the recipes have been written and tested:

Hors d'Oeuvre Soups
  • Moroccan Green Bean and Chickpea Soup
  • Minestrone
  • Green Bean Gumbo
  • Cream of Green Bean Soup
  • Green Bean Vichyssoise
  • Galician Sausage and Green Bean Soup
  • Italian Green Bean and Wild Mushroom Soup
  • Elzekaria (Basque Cabbage and Green Bean Soup)
  • Soupe au Pistou (Provencal Vegetable Soup)
  • Habart Bableves (Hungarian Green Bean and Potato Soup)
  • Ozark Bean Soup
Sandwiches Cold Salads
  • Greek Green Bean Salad
  • Salade Nicoise
  • Aztec Green Bean Salad
  • Green Beans with Bleu Cheese Dressing
  • Shrimp, Green Bean, and Artichoke Salad
  • Three Bean Salad
  • Lobster Salad with Haricots Verts
  • Green Beans Provencal
  • Green Bean and Celery Salad
  • Salade Folle (Foie Gras with Green Beans)
  • Green Beans in Herb Vinaigrette
  • Haricots Verts in Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette
  • Skordalia with Gigandes and Green Beans
Hot Accompaniments
  • Braised Green Beans with Pancetta and Gorgonzola
  • Braised Green Beans, Tomatoes, and Onions
  • Green Beans Braised in Chicken Stock and Garlic
  • Kapros Zoldbab Fozelek (Hungarian Sweet and Sour Green Beans)
  • Haricots Verts and Wild Mushrooms
  • Southern Style Green Beans
  • Green Beans with Peppers and Tomatoes
  • Fritedda (Sicilian Artichokes, Green Beans, Fennel, and Peas)
  • Thai Green Beans
  • Grilled Green Beans with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
  • Roasted Potatoes, Fennel, and Green Beans
  • Baked Green Beans with Parmesan
  • Polpettone di Fagiolini (Green Bean and Potato Pie)
  • Green Bean Gratin
  • Sweet and Sour Green Beans
  • Green Beans with Ginger Butter
  • Green Bean, Bacon, and Gruyere Quiche
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Haricots Verts Beurre au Citron
  • Green Beans Amandine
  • Japanese Steamed Green Beans
  • Green Beans and Carrots Teriyaki
  • Green Beans in Onion Paste
  • Hunan Sauteed Green Beans
  • Nutty Indian Green Beans
  • Sem Paneer (Indian Cheese and Green Beans)
Rice and Pasta
  • Paglia e Fieno (Green and Yellow Fettucine with Prosciutto, Mushrooms, and Cream)
  • Spaghetti with Green Beans, Garlic, and Oil
  • Green Bean Bolognese
  • Pasta Primavera
  • Green Bean Couscous
  • Green Bean Pilaf
  • Paniscia Novarese (Risotto with Minestrone)
  • Mushroom and Green Bean Risotto
  • Green Bean and Pesto Risotto
  • Lubis Polo (Persian Green Beans and Rice)
  • Cajun Green Beans and Rice

Awesome Green Bean Festival t-shirts and other apparel
are now available at the AGBF on-line store