"Sometimes Mom bought the thick-cut green beans, but I always preferred the French cut."

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[Flickr: ccharmon]

Green Beans Almondine

I've been known to put peanuts and peanut butter on just about anything. But I have to admit, the first time I ever tried nuts in a savory dish, it wasn't peanuts at all—it was almonds.

Green Beans Almondine, a favorite go-to side in Mom's weekday kitchen playbook, was my first introduction to nuts as an integral component to a savory dish, and it remains a favorite to this day. Now when Mom made this for us, I'm sure the beans came frozen in a bag or a brick, with a little packet of sliced or slivered almonds (depending on the brand) to toss in with the beans after cooking.

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A vintage ad for frozen green beans.

I remember helping out in the kitchen, and devised a way to cook these quickly—first microwaving them to defrost them, then adding a little butter and lemon in a pan and finishing the beans off on the stove, throwing in the almonds at the last minute so they got some color, and adding just a little salt and pepper at the table for seasoning.

Sometimes Mom bought the thick-cut green beans, but I always preferred the French cut. Nowadays I usually use fresh whole beans and parboil them in slated water, but no matter how it's prepared, this dish always takes me back to my childhood.

I love how the almonds add a crunchy texture, and the nutty flavor they impart really takes the bean's fresh green flavors to a whole new level. The butter and lemon of course forms a light sauce and really ties it all together. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.

So how about it eaters—how did you first taste or use nuts in cooking? Between peanuts, almonds, walnuts, macadamias, pecans, and hazelnuts, I'm guessing there are some great recipes out there.

About the author: Lee Zalben was a PB&J-loving kid that grew up to be the founder and president of Peanut Butter & Co., which began as a Greenwich Village sandwich shop serving nothing but peanut butter sandwiches and expanded to include the now-famous line of all natural flavored peanut butter. Lee is a graduate of Vassar College and enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting foods made with peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds. When he's not working, eating, flying or writing, he enjoys scuba diving and training elephants.

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