The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

Green Beans with Anchovies

July 16th, 2010 · 3 Comments · Posted in garden, Recipes

Our favorite Italian flat bean with a twist

Our favorite Italian flat bean with a pungent twist

We recently put it to readers how best to prepare the Italian flat beans that we like so much and are now harvesting in the garden. Our friend Kevin at the Seriously Good blog suggested a simple treatment with garlic and anchovies that we’d never tried of before. I’m a huge fan of anchovies. Daughter had to leave the kitchen holding her nose. But even my wife, who’s not a big fan of anchovies, loved these beans.

Kevin suggests cooking the beans about half-way in water. We did that in a stock pot with salted water. Meanwhile, in a heavy skillet generously greased with olive oil, saute a large clove of garlic, chopped fine, until it is soft. Do not let it brown. Then add a small handful of the best anchovies you can find. I had to make do with a small tin of anchovies from the supermarket. But if you can find dried anchovies and rehydrate them (in milk is a standard treatment), so much the better. Saute the anchovies, crushing them with a wooden spoon, until they “melt” in the pan. They will in fact dissolve and disperse into the oil. Add as much oil as you think you need to lightly coat all of your beans.

We also like the idea of eating small, oily fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Smaller fish lower down on the food chain are much less likely to contain mercury. Unfortunately, the kind of anchovies we’re used to from Europe are no longer abundant. In fact, the Marine Stewardship Council has placed them on its list of fish to avoid. Here’s what the MSC has to say on its website:

“While conservationists have long warned of the depletion of cod stocks by over fishing, the plight of some fish, such as anchovies may surprise consumers.

“The small pungent fish is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, and is frequently used in salads and pizza toppings. However, diners have been asked to avoid them so dwindling stocks can have time to replenish.

“Anchovies in the Bay of Biscay are at an all-time low and, as there is no sustainable alternative, they have been added to the MCS’s updated Fish to Avoid list.

“Anchovy populations in the Bay of Biscay have been struggling since 2002, as overfishing left fewer adult fish to provide eggs. The fishery suffered a complete failure in 2004 and is now officially closed.

“Stocks in the other big European anchovy fishery – off the Portuguese coast – are also critical. Anchovies are still legally caught there, though quotas have been restricted.”

Meanwhile, the anchovy fishery in Peru is seeking “sustainable” certification from the same Marine Stewardship Council. But I’m not sure you can buy anchovies for cooking from Peru. The fishery there is more geared toward turning the anchovies into feed and fish oil. Unfortunately, neither the Seafood Watch program nor Blue Ocean Institute, two of my favorite source on seafood sustainability, give any information on anchovies at their websites. Greenpeace lists anchovies as safe to eat where mercury is concerned and does not list it as threatened. In other words, use your best judgment when purchasing anchovies.

Drain the beans thoroughly, then toss them in the pan with the olive oil, the garlic, and the anchovies. Serve warm. You can see them here next to a cheeseburger made with grassfed beef from our local dairy. It’s dressed with a pepper sauce we got some years ago from our farmer friend Brett, when we were still subscribing to his winter CSA.

This is the way we eat dinner around our house most of the time–especially in summer, when we have produce in our garden right outside the door. Thanks, Kevin, for adding something new to our bean cookery.

For more great stories about how we are taking back our food system, read Fight Back Friday.

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  • Sarah

    Oh yum! This sounds right up my alley . . . my green beans are just starting to produce and I’m excited to have a new recipe to try! Thanks for sharing!


  • Kevin

    Ed, A bit of bacon or pancetta is also good with these.

  • alex@amoderatelife

    LOL kevin EVERYTHING is better with bacon! I adore flat beans much more than regular green beans. While I don’t really like fishy tasting things, i do find that anchovy can lend to a salty flavor and not be overly fishy! Great recipe and lovely blog! I grabbed your RSS feed.