Skillet green beans with garlic and lemon

September 20, 2009 at 2:28 pm (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Cook's Illustrated, Vegetable dishes)

I wanted a quick, flavorful green bean dish for dinner last night, and I decided to try this recipe from Cook’s Illustrated “Best Light Recipe” cookbook.


  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 1 Tbs.)
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh thyme leaves
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth (C.I. calls for chicken broth)
  • 1.5 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs. grated Parmesan


  1. Heat the oil, garlic, thyme, and cayenne in a 12-inch skillet, until fragrant.  Then add the broth and green beans.  Turn the heat to medium-high, cover, and cook until the green beans are not quite tender, 6 to 9 minutes.
  2. Mix the cornstarch with the water to make a slurry.  Push the green beans to the side of the pan, and add the slurry to the empty side.  Cook until the slurry starts to simmer, then mix it with the green beans.  Cook until the green beans are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat, and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in the parmesan before serving.


I only had about 1 1/3 pounds green beans, but I used the full amount of ingredients.  Despite skimping on the beans, the sauce wasn’t too strong. I used arrowroot instead of cornstarch, but otherwise followed the recipe.  The green beans tasted fine, but the sauce was very mellow.  With all that garlic, I was expecting something with a little more bite (like the lemon/mustard green beans in Modern Vegetarian Kitchen).  Derek said that part of the problem was that I overcooked the beans.  Although I would have preferred them a bit more crisp, I didn’t think they were very overcooked.  They were just very mild tasting.  The parmesan and cornstarch really mellow out the bite from the garlic, and the lack of much oil made the whole thing taste just a little wan.   Also, I’m not sure why the salt is added at the end instead of with the vegetable broth.  The thyme was fine, but not quite the right seasoning for green beans I think.  I don’t think I’d make this recipe as is again.  At the very least I’d save some raw garlic and throw it in at the very end.  Also, I would serve it with rice or another grain to soak up some of the sauce.  However, if you like more mellow flavors, and are looking for an easy, very low calorie vegetable side dish, then give this a try.

Rating: B-

Derek: B-

Permalink 2 Comments

Ten days in Scotland

September 18, 2009 at 10:41 pm (Restaurant review, Trip report)

My blog has languished recently because I haven’t been cooking–I’ve been enjoying other people’s cooking in Scotland.  Derek and I spent a week in Edinburgh and three days on the island of Islay. Both were lovely.

edinburghSmallI immediately fell in love with Edinburgh.  I felt at home from the moment we got on the airport bus and started riding through the suburbs. I liked the Georgian monotony of New Town, the touristy cashmere kitsch of the Royal Mile, and the small town friendliness of Stockbridge.  Edinburgh feels like a big, bustling city, yet it’s very easy and fast (and cheap!) to get around on foot and by bus.  Plus they’re rebuilding the trams!

I spent most of my week in Edinburgh just walking around, exploring all the different neighborhoods, and checking out the marvelous thrift stores (of which there seemed to be an infinite supply).  And I ate.  I ate lunch and dinner out every day.  After the unvarying German/Italian/Thai of Saarbruecken, it was a pleasure to be able to sample so many different cuisines.  Still, as the week wore on, I started to get sick of restaurant food.  My normally captious nature blossomed into outright pickiness (as you’ll see in the comments below).  But don’t be fooled by all the criticism.  I had a lovely time in Edinburgh, and would return in a minute.

Scotland is more vegetarian friendly than Germany–almost every restaurant has at least one vegetarian main dish.  That said, the vegetarian fare is pretty predictable.  At most restaurants the vegetarian option is risotto, and if not risotto, then it’s almost always ravioli.  I enjoy a well-made risotto, and I’ve had some excellent ravioli. (The pumpkin ravioli in a sage cream sauce at Girasole in Pittsburgh comes to mind.) However, when I go to a restaurant and the only vegetarian choices are risotto and ravioli, I become unreasonably acrimonious.  So I tried to seek out places with more interesting vegetarian options. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 3 Comments