Green beans
Glenn Koenig/Los Angeles Times/TNS

A bowl of fresh green beans is one of the most popular side dishes for any kind of meat, whether it is chicken, pork, or beef. Vegetarians will probably agree that they are also a tasty part of an all-vegetable meal. No one in our family was a true vegetarian, but many times we did not have meat with our meals.

When I was growing up in a Southern home, we always looked forward to the first green beans from my uncle’s garden.

I thought my mother’s green beans were the best, especially with homemade cornbread (and perhaps a Vidalia onion). I realize that the way she cooked them might not find favor with the palates of people in other parts of our country, because she cooked them slowly for hours. Sometimes they almost stuck to the bottom of the old iron pot in which they were cooked.

In other parts of the country, green beans are cooked very little, leaving them with a fresh, crisp texture. You actually probably get more of the true green bean flavor when they are cooked this way, but it would be hard to convince a Southerner of this fact.

For years, it was hard for me to cook commercially canned green beans and get them to have the same great flavor as fresh ones. I think you might like the following version of canned beans. When my Quick and Easy Green Beans are served, even some die-hard Southerners will go back for seconds.

You might also enjoy my Dressed-Up Bean Bundles.

For those who want green beans like their Southern grandmother used to make, try my Old-Fashioned Green Beans.

I seldom cook green beans in the microwave, but if you are in a hurry and don’t want to sacrifice flavor, my niece Marcy’s Go-To Green Beans could become a family favorite. Marcy said these are her grandson’s favorite.

QUICK AND EASY GREEN BEANS

  • 2 cans (14 ½ ounce) cut green beans
  • 1 cup sliced smoked sausage (about ¼ inch thick slices)
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained (optional)

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook about 10 minutes.

DRESSED-UP GREEN BEAN BUNDLES

  • Canned whole green beans, well drained
  • Bacon, ⅓ to ½ strip for each bundle
  • Catalina or French dressing

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make small bundles of 5 to 6 whole green beans. Wrap bacon strip around each bundle and place in baking pan. Pour Catalina or French dressing over bundles. Bake until bacon is cooked. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

NOTE: If you want a crisp texture, use fresh green beans instead of canned beans.

OLD-FASHIONED SOUTHERN GREEN BEANS

  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds fresh green beans, snapped
  • 1 quart water
  • ¼ pound salt pork
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Black pepper, to taste

Combine green beans, water and salt pork in large iron pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook until beans are tender and most of water has cooked out. Add oil and mix. Taste and add black pepper, if needed.

MARCY’S GO-TO GREEN BEANS

  • 2 cans (14 ½ ounce) green beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • 2 strips bacon, cut up
  • About 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon Cavender’s Greek seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine onion, bacon and oil in medium bowl. Microwave about 1 minute until bacon is cooked. Stir in green beans, Cavender’s, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Microwave 3 minutes.

Award-winning chef Prudence Hilburn’s cooking column appears every other week. Contact her at prudencehilburn@aol.com.