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11 Ways to Enjoy Summer Beans on the Cheap

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TIME FOR BEANS

Summer is a time of plentiful market produce. Among the most popular and easiest to find vegetables are fresh summer beans. Beans come in many forms, starting with the common green bean and its longer, thinner cousin, the French haricot vert. Then there are the purple and white-yellow wax bean varieties, as well as freshly shelled beans such as broad and cranberry. All summer beans offer opportunities for nutritious deliciousness on the cheap when prepared with other seasonal and flavorful ingredients. Here are 11 ideas for making the most of summer beans.

Related: 14 'Superfoods' to Eat This Summer

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GRILLED WITH CHIMICHURRI

Everything tastes good after a stint on the grill and a slather of chimichurri, including summer beans. Bring a container of fresh beans to a barbecue and throw them on a hot grill until tender and showing a few char marks. Top with a thick blanket of chimichurri made from the fresh summer herbs that are dirt cheap at markets.

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STEWED WITH TOMATOES

Stewing beans brings out their creaminess and deep earthy flavor. Tomato and garlic-infused beans are as toothsome as a satisfying pasta dish, with the added bonus of being high in protein and fiber. Replace an entree with these hearty stewed beans from the blog Kitchen Treaty, or serve as a rich side dish to complete a meal.

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BLANCHED FOR SALAD

Broad beans may be a staple element of humble diets, but it's easy to create restaurant-quality dishes when using fresh market ingredients. Small touches such as pea shoots, herbs, and ricotta create a decadent bean-based dish worthy of the most sophisticated dinner plate. Feel free to swap out the muscat vinegar in a recipe from Food52 for something more widely available, such as sherry vinegar.

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WARMED IN A SALAD

Dramatic-looking purple beans can be used to create a stunning salad from simple raw ingredients. A summer mix created by the recipe site Addicted to Veggies is light and crisp while incorporating layers of deep flavor from fresh chives and dill, and lemon. Serve as an elegant dinner party side dish to accompany grilled fish or sliced steak.

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PRESSURE COOKED WITH POTATOES

Anyone with a pressure cooker can pull together a garlicky bean and potato salad by following a recipe from Cooking Light. The preparation is simple and quick, and allows for lots of substitutions and customization. Use wax beans instead of green beans, for example, and try adding fresh chives to the dressing.

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RAW AND COLORFUL

Summer beans come in a variety of hues, and mixing them together creates a feast of color for the eyes and layers of subtly different flavors. Toss purple, green, and yellow beans with a simple mustard vinaigrette as a brightly flavored side dish for any summer meal. Top with mozzarella and market tomatoes for a light and satisfying lunch.

Boiled and Dressed
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BOILED AND DRESSED

Celebrate the flavors of summer with fresh cranberry beans, which are beautiful in shape and delightfully creamy. A recipe from Cooking Light shows off their full flavor with an herb pesto that is light and refreshing. Turn this side into a full meal by using it as a sandwich spread or topping it with a poached egg.

Parboiled for Pasta
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PARBOILED FOR PASTA

Fresh, crispy green beans match with al dente pasta and a bright, piquant sauce for a summery side dish from Real Simple. The green beans add healthy bulk to traditional pasta salad, upping the nutritional value as well as the volume. Brighten up this year-round family favorite with a dose of summer green.

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BOILED WITH BACON

While this combination may be old-fashioned, it has earned its classic stripes for good reason. Fresh, young green beans and crispy bacon are a natural and delicious pairing. At the height of summer, market beans are inexpensive, leaving room in the budget for good quality bacon. Vegetarians can substitute mushrooms and/or sundried tomatoes in this dish from the blog Simply Recipes for an equally savory and umami-rich dish.

Coffee Shop 339 - Stir-Fried French Beans
Coffee Shop 339 - Stir-Fried French Beans by Richard Lee (CC BY-NC-ND)

CHARRED WITH VINAIGRETTE

A vegan side dish from the blog A Beautiful Plate uses the classic Mexican ingredients cilantro and lime to enhance the natural earthy sweetness of green beans charred in a stovetop grill pan. Serve alongside tacos or enchiladas for a refreshingly different twist on a summer staple.

Simmered in Curry
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SIMMERED IN CURRY

Green beans hold up well as a key ingredient in a variety of curries. Stick with a favorite Indian-style curry, or try a sweet and savory Thai curry recipe from Vegetarian Times for a hearty and spicy meat-free meal. This is an excellent way to use up summer green beans before they age and toughen.