In the Dang household vegetables were part of dinner every single night. Sometimes they were part of a more elaborate dish, like carrots and turnips in a chicken curry, but more often than not, they were just popped into a container with some water (and sometimes even butter) and microwaved. My mom would get home from a long day at work and in the rush to prepare dinner and ensure vegetables were definitely a large part of the meal, the microwave was often the most convenient solution. We frequently had broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and green beans all prepared this way.
The food snob in me used to feel that my mom was cheating, because microwaving didn’t seem like real cooking. However, the vegetables always turned out delicious. They were never soggy, had a nice crunch, and because they were lightly seasoned, the natural taste of the vegetables always shined. As an adult trying to juggle life, I’ve definitely gotten over my snobby notion that microwaving isn’t cooking. In fact, it’s incredibly smart cooking – quick, tasty, and one of the healthiest ways to cook vegetables, preserving more nutrients than other methods.
Sans children, I have a little more time than my mom did back in the day. While I still take advantage of the microwave on weeknights, I like to use this shortcut as one element in a larger vegetable dish. One of my favorites is combining microwaved green beans with sauteed fennel. Fennel tastes better slightly caramelized, which is why it’s a better candidate for sautéing vs. microwaving. Green beans on the other hand are equally good nuked, blanched, or sauteed. Just the fennel and green beans together make an awesome side dish but topped with some grated parmesan and nuts of your choice, it’ll feel like something straight off a restaurant menu. And in under 10 minutes? Thanks mom for showing me how to cook so smartly.
- Green beans – 1 lb.
- Olive oil – 1 tbs.
- Fennel – 1 bulb
- Parmesan cheese – 2 oz.
- Almonds / pine nuts – 4 tbs.
- Fennel – Thinly slice. [Learn how to chop fennel in this video|http://youtu.be/eaZVM6E4_qA]
- Green beans – Trim off ends (optional)
- Microwave green beans for 2 to 4 minutes, depending on thickness and desired level of crunchiness (less time for thinner / crunchier)
- While green beans are microwaving, heat a frying / saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to warmed pan
- Then add sliced fennel to warmed oil with a pinch of kosher salt. Saute for about 5 minutes. If the pan looks dry and the fennel looks like it might burn, add a few tablespoons of water
- When fennel is golden in about 5 minutes, toss with microwaved green beans
- Season to taste with salt & pepper
- Plate. If you want to add cheese, grate over hot green beans and sprinkle with nuts
- These beans will be a great side dish with any protein – fish, chicken, or even sausage.
- Can’t find fennel? Substitute with sliced onions instead
- Turn leftovers as fixings for a hearty salad. It’ll be fabulous