What is it about Italians? They always seem to have a better twist on things when it comes to food and fashion. Take this recipe, for example, which was inspired by a recent trip to Tuscany. The reason this dish is so good is because the garlic is left uncooked. After blanching the beans -- be sure to keep the lid off the beans while blanching, unless you want gray green beans -- toss them in garlic and olive oil. The heat from the beans takes the edginess off the garlic, but keeps the robust, flavorful punch.

This dish can be served with just toasted almonds. But like a cocktail dress and a sleek pair of Prada heels, the dish dresses up beautifully with fresh fruit. In the summer, peaches are my preferred stone fruit, although blackberries also work nicely. In the fall, I use Fuyu persimmons, which makes it perfect for a Thanksgiving side dish. And in the spring, apricots or pitted cherries are delicious.

Now you can strut down your dining room runway knowing you have a show-stopping side dish in hand!

Bibby Gignilliat is the founder of Parties That Cook, a San Francisco-based culinary event company; www.PartiesThatCook.com.

Greens Beans with Peaches and Toasted Almonds

Serves 8

2 pounds green beans, trimmed

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/3 cup sliced almonds

2 fresh peaches


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1. Working in batches, cook the green beans in a stock pot of boiling, salted water, uncovered, until just crisp-tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Drain well. Toss the hot beans immediately in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saute pan. Add the almonds and cook until lightly toasted. Set aside.

3. Cut the peaches in half; remove the stem and pit. Slice the peaches in 1/4-inch slices from top to bottom and set aside. (Alternatively, dice them in cubes.)

4. When ready to serve, add the peaches to the bean mixture. Sprinkle with the toasted, sliced almonds and serve immediately at room temperature.

-- Parties That Cook