One day in early autumn, while forging through the tulgey wood,* we found dragon beans.
Obviously, the name alone meant that we had to buy them. There is, after all, something deeply satisfying about responding to the question "What should we have for dinner tonight?" by yelling "DRAGON BEANS!" at the top of one's lungs. Try it. You'll see.
(Yes, that is your neighbor staring through your kitchen window at you, and yes, he could probably hear you just then as you were gleefully screeching about mythical vegetable beasts, but that wide-eyed look on his face is obviously just jealousy about your dragon beans. He probably wants to steal them. You should no doubt lock the window and then yell DRAGON BEANS again, with emphatic arm movements, just to stake your claim.)
It just so happens that dragon beans are also (a) gorgeous and (b) deeply delicious. They would be lovely kept raw, in a salad, or arranged on a plate as crudité. We cooked ours (after liberal nibbling), which meant that they lost their fancy coloring, but they turned out so sweet and juicy and delectably addictive that we forgot to care.
1 small shallot, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 mild chile peppers, sliced into thin rings
1 lb dragon beans (or sub any especially crunchy, juicy green beans)
About 2 tbsp chicken broth (or sub veggie broth)
About 2 tbsp sweet basil chiffonade
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh nasturtium flowers (optional)
Heat a wide saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil, then add the shallot and chiles and saute for two minutes or so until they soften. Add the beans and toss to coat. Continue cooking for about five minutes, tossing every minute or two.
Add a slosh of broth, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let steam for 2-3 more minutes until they are a minute away from al dente. (If the beans are especially crunchy and juicy, like ours were, you might want to stop cooking them on the early side to capitalize on that.)
Push the beans to the side of the pan, add just a bit more olive oil and the basil, and fry for 30 seconds. Push to the side with the beans, tilt the pan toward the empty side, and add the balsamic vinegar. Keep the pan tilted with the vinegar side over the flame as it simmers, until it reduces in volume by about half. Turn off the heat, stir to coat evenly, and serve.
Garnish with nasturtiums.
*a.k.a. our co-op