Pan-Seared Green Beans and a Tipping Point

Contrary to what you’d think, the main ingredient in the recipe below is not green beans, it is heat. A simple dose of high heat adds huge flavor, has no calories, requires no shopping or refrigeration, and is available year-round in your kitchen. Now for something unexpected.

“You know how when you’re sitting in a chair, you start pushing against the floor and tipping the chair backward on its rear legs? And you keep pushing until, if you tipped the chair back just another fraction of an inch, you’d fall over? I feel that way all the time.” -Steven Wright

Green Beans according to Steven Wright

What do green beans have to do with Steven Wright? Besides him being a great comedian and this being a great green bean recipe? Something about “deadpan”?

Green Beans with Bell Peppers

Pan-Seared Green Beans, photo by The Spinning Cook

The key thing is learning to control the heat, riding that line between the chair tipping backwards (blackness, smoke detector, shame) and the safety net of lower temperatures. I like to turn up the heat and take my chances. It feels more dangerous which I like. And the kids tend to eat all of theirs and some of mine, which sets a better tone at the table than my “Shut up and eat your kale” T-Shirt.

Will you tip your chair back and try it with me? Why or why not? Is there someone at your house who likes to set off the smoke alarm? Let me know in the comments.

Recipe: Simple Pan-Seared Green Beans


  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and snapped
  • Half of one medium red or yellow bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over moderately high heat, until the oil is very hot and shimmering but not smoking. To make sure it is hot enough, add one piece of bell pepper to the pan, which should sizzle immediately. Add the beans and bell pepper slices to the pan and cover.
  2. Cook for exactly two minutes, then turn the vegetables with tongs or a spatula. Carefully pour the broth over the top, and cover again, reducing heat to medium. Continue to cook until the beans pierce easily with the tip of a sharp knife, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 4

Posted in High Heat, Recipes
11 comments on “Pan-Seared Green Beans and a Tipping Point
  1. Seth says:

    I’m totally trying this. We generally just eat green beans raw, but I like them lightly cooked.

    BTW, it may be questionable to term this “Vegetarian” when chicken broth is being employed. Just sayin’.

  2. Amy says:

    Don’t forget a good scoopful of chopped garlic too!

  3. Heather Bennett says:

    Just made this tonight. Yummmm! I used hot peppers instead of bell and added garlic. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Avatar photo Ryan says:

      You’re welcome – glad you enjoyed! I’d love to add more hot stuff but it always comes down to the lowest common denominator, that everyone can handle. I’d like to explore ways to add spice to half of a dish once it’s done for those who want it, but it’s hard to do this if you can’t let the flavors mingle all along the way. Thanks Heather!

  4. rick says:

    Nice. I usually like to get the start of a blackened layer at the bottom of the pan (been using cast iron lately) and then deglaze with some wine. Just keep the pan hot and pour in a couple glugs, and grind away with the wooden spoon. Augment the little sauce and blackened tasty bits as you see fit (more wine, cream, whatever goes or nothing) and pour it over the beans. Flavor country!

    Also, try sesame oil instead of or in addition to olive oil. You can finish with toasted sesame seeds and maybe a pinch of five spice. cheers!

    • Avatar photo Ryan says:

      Deglaze is da bomb. Thanks Rick! I love sesame oil but it never seemed to last for very long so we stopped buying it. Let me know if you have any tricks for extending shelf life, would love to have that around more.

  5. Gabrielle Duncan Pastrefoa says:

    Now add the soy sauce and cumin and perhaps a little more olive oil until you are satisfied with the spice level.

  6. Avarycce says:

    I use Bacon grease or extra virgin olive oil, onions and garlic for mine, and my family devours them except my littlest who has to be one of the pickiest eaters I have ever seen.

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