Wax Beans with Caramelized Fennel and Black Olives

I’ve just received the first of this summers’ stringbean crop from my neighbor Beppi’s garden.  He raises three varieties–long beans, wax beans, and regular stringbeans.  I love the yellow wax beans–they’re sturdy in texture but mild and sweet in flavor.

Their mildness lends itself to some strong accompanying flavors.  Tonight, I’ve decided to use fennel, red onions, nicoise olives and some lemon zest to brighten everything.  The fennel and onions are caramelized in olive oil for a good 20 minutes.  The olives are then added and sauteed for a minute or so.  The wax beans are boiled separately, then added for the last few minutes of sauteing.

This is a sweet, salty, earthy preparation that you can use for any variety of stringbeans.  They pair well with almost any main course.  Tonight, we’re having plain, pan-roasted salmon (for the technique, see salsa verde with pan-roasted salmon).  In addition, some boiled yukon gold potatoes, tossed with parsley and olive oil, and swiss chard sauteed with bacon.

This is a great dish to serve at (or bring to) a party, as it serves well at room temperature.

Wax Beans with Caramelized Fennel and Black Olives

serves 4

1 1/2 lbs. wax beans, trimmed of ends and cut into bite-size pieces

4 tbls extra-virgin olive oil

1 bulb fennel, outer layers removed, halved, cored and sliced into 1/4″ half-moon slices

1 red onion, sliced thinly

1/4 c pitted nicoise olives

2 tsps fennel fronds, washed and chopped

zest of one lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Drop beans into boiling salted water.  Cook until crisp-tender (about 10 minutes).

In a broad skillet, place onion, fennel, olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

On low heat, begin simmering, covered.  Remove cover and stir every 3  minutes or so, until they have softened and begun to turn golden brown (about 15 minutes).  Uncover and add lemon zest and olives.  Saute for another minute to release flavor and brown the olives slightly.

May be made up to this point and held, off heat, for about a half-hour.

Add green beans and continue sauteing on high heat.  Top with fennel fronds and additional zest, if desired.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  May be served hot, warm, or room temperature.

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