Whole-animal cooking is yesterday's news. Welcome to whole-vegetable cooking. Will Preisch, the executive chef at The Bent Brick in Portland, Oregon, purchases boxes of bean leaves from local farms, makes large batches of the pesto from the leaves, then freezes it in small containers for later use. Now, at the height of the season, he serves green beans swathed in the bean-leaf pesto. Although we may not be swimming in bushels of leaves, our local farmers and Greenmarket purveyors were happy to unload excess leaves for our unconventional endeavor. If you have trouble finding leaves in your area, Preisch suggests substituting basil or parsley. But a bean-leaf hunt is worth the trouble: The bean-on-bean flavor is an eye-opener.
Charred Beans with Bean-Leaf Pesto
Recipe adapted from Will Preisch, Bent Brick, Portland, OR
Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 15 minutes
2 cups fresh bean leaves (substitute basil or parsley leaves if bean leaves are unavailable)
4 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup water
1 pound raw green or Romano beans
Juice of ½ medium lemon
Coarse sea salt
1. Heat a grill pan over high heat. Once hot, add half of the bean leaves and toast until slightly blackened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
2. In a blender, combine the charred and raw bean leaves. Add the canola oil and blend on high until smooth. While the mixture is blending, add the water in a steady stream. Season with kosher salt and set aside.
3. Return the grill pan to the stovetop and heat over medium-high heat. Add the green beans. Grill over medium-high heat until slightly blistered and tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Immediately toss the beans with a few spoonfuls of pesto. Sprinkle with lemon juice and top with sea salt. Serve immediately. Store any remaining pesto in a small container covered with enough oil to cover the surface of the pesto. The pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week and in the freezer for 1 month.