Ah the Maillard reaction! The magic behind roasting and toasting which is responsible for the extra flavor in bread crust, pan fried eggs, seared steaks, and even maple syrup and coffee! Maillard browning is the result of the reaction between sugars and ammino-acids (the building blocks of proteins), which happens at temperatures around 150 °C, and which develops a large number of aromatic compounds.
Unlike in North America where cooked vegetables tend to be lightly steamed or even just blanched, in Italy they are generally cooked through, and roasting is common. Legumes especially benefit from roasting thanks to their high content of ammino-acids (which gives excellent browning), and to their meaty texture (which remains firm thanks to the partial evaporation of their water content).
- 300 g (10 oz) of green beans, with the stems trimmed
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons of white wine
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oil and fry shallot and garlic until translucent.
- Add the green beans and roast at medium heat for 5 minutes, tossing gently.
- Add the wine and cover with a lid, cook for 5 minutes.
- Uncover and allow the wine to fully evaporate, continuing to toss gently.
- Cook at low heat, tossing from time to time, for 15 minutes or until the green beans will have softened and browned uniformly.
- Adjust salt and pepper, serve lukewarm.