Canned goods are an inexpensive and relatively easy cooking solution. They’re great when local produce or fruit prices get too high for your budget, or when the local crop has a bad year in flavor and appearance. Somehow, however, canned items like green beans never quite taste as good as fresh. Thankfully, you can brighten up otherwise bland beans with a few simple additions that don’t take a lot of time or money.
One of the fastest and easiest ways of making canned green beans taste less bland is by adding spices from your pantry. For beans with an Asian spin, add garlic, hot pepper and sesame seeds along with butter or sesame oil. If you want an Italian-style blend, use butter, oregano, onion and basil. Come Thanksgiving, pair the beans with rosemary, sage and thyme to match your stuffing, or try a slightly sweet-nutty profile integrating marjoram, nutmeg and cumin.
Canned green beans are already very soft, meaning they puree easily. Place them in a food processor with butter, cream, salt, pepper and cheese, blending until you get the consistency you prefer. You can make the purée chunky or smooth. Warm it up as a fondue for garlic breadsticks. Alternatively, spread it on crostini, warm them in the oven and serve with a scant powdering of nutmeg on top.
Sauteing is a culinary technique that enables you to brown food using a small amount of oil or fat. Saute canned green beans to crisp them up in about two to three minutes. Once they are lightly browned, add spices that bring out the best bean flavor, like lemon and pepper or basil and salt. For extra texture, toss the green beans with slivered almonds and a hint of garlic.
Stir-frying is another way to change the texture of green beans and infuse them with whatever flavors you desire. Toss the canned beans into a hot wok with sesame oil, garlic and red pepper flakes for a quick and simple side dish for sweet and sour shrimp or orange chicken.
Improve the flavor of canned green beans by making them into a salad. Toss the beans with olive oil, vinegar cherry tomatoes and powdered cheese. Serve this on a bed of leafy greens for a pretty presentation. Alternatively, mix green, yellow and red canned beans together with one part vinegar, one part sugar, mustard seed and celery seed. Put the mixture in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. The longer they sit, the better the flavor becomes, but give them at least one day to fully integrate the flavors.
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Patricia Telesco has been a writer since 1992. She has produced more than 60 books with publishers that include HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Her articles have appeared in "Woman's World" and "National Geographic Today." Telesco holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Buffalo.