I’m a big fan of simple food, especially when it comes to fresh vegetables. But sometimes I want to spice it up, use up an ingredient in the refrigerator, or make a vegetable more festive. Last night my fresh green beans, served cold with dressing, almost stole the show from the salmon main dish.
First, how to buy green beans. Green beans are typically sold by weight. I buy one handful of beans per serving. This week, I weighed my green beans before cutting off the ends, and it turns out that 1 large handful is ¼ pound, so 1/2 pound feeds 2 people.
Look for beans that are full (not shriveled), bright green and unblemished. You can take out a few not-so-great-looking ones when you wash them, but if the whole lot of them look like they have seen better days, pass them by on this shopping trip and go for another vegetable.
Cooking tips You can steam or microwave green beans, but I prefer to boil them in salted water because I think it keeps then crisper than the other 2 cooking methods. 2 Two tips for making delicious cooked green beans: 1) let them cook only until crisp – never leave them in the boiling water unattended or you’ll overcook them for sure; and 2) immediately “shock” the beans, by putting them in a bowl of ice and cold water. The ice and cold water stop the cooking – the beans will stay crisp and retain that glorious shade of green.
Fresh green beans – (2 servings – 1/2 pound of green beans) Total cost – $1.00 for beans
The only ingredients you need (besides the beans) are water and salt.
- Cutting board
- Colander, sieve, or other way to drain green beans when they are done cooking
- Bowl of ice and water
- Paper or cloth towel for drying beans
- Put at least several inches of water into a pot, add salt (I don’t measure, but more than a dash and less than a ½ teaspoon) and bring it to a rolling boil.
- Meanwhile, get another bowl ready with plenty of ice cubes and some cold water.
- Wash the beans and cut off the ends.
- Put the beans into the boiling water. Cook for maybe 1 ½ – 2 minutes. The only foolproof way to know if they’re done is to test one. (Go ahead and fish one out of the water with the spoon, but don’t burn yourself on the hand or the roof of your mouth!)
- As soon as the beans have gotten a bit softer than raw, but while they are still crisp, turn off the boiling water, take the beans out of the pot and put them into the bowl of ice and cold water.
- Let the green beans sit in the cold bath for a minute, then drain and dry them.
You can eat them “as is” with salt and pepper, put them on salad, or serve them as a side dish. (Green beans are great on Salad Nicoise, a fancy name for lettuce, with tuna – fresh or canned, tomatoes, green beans, and other vegetables places artistically around the plate.) I opted for a side dish with dressing.
Bacon (or alternative veggie) dressing for green beans (for 4 servings of beans)Total cost with beans – $2.30
- 2 slices of bacon
- 1-2 tablespoons of red onion or 1/2 shallot (typically smaller than an onion and less sharp)
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/3-1/2 of a lemon)
- salt & pepper
Equipment (besides the pot, bowl and paper or cloth towel for cooking beans)
- Paper towel
- Cutting board – you can use the same one you used to cut off the tips of the beans
- Small bowl
- Chop the onion or shallot.
- Cook the bacon strips in a pan under medium heat until they are crispy.
- Take the bacon strips out of the pan and drain them on a paper towel.
- Use the bacon fat left in the pan to cook the chopped onion or shallot. Drain the chopped onion/shallot into a small container.
- Add (to the container) 2 teaspoons of oil and the same amount of lemon juice. (Usually the formula for dressing is about 2 to 1, oil to lemon juice or vinegar. But the shallots retained a bit of bacon fat on them, so I opted for less oil. Also bacon is salty, so I don’t use more salt in the dressing.)
- Crumble the bacon strips in the paper towel.
- Add the bacon bits to the onion/shallot, oil and lemon juice.
- Pour over the green beans, mix and add a dash or two of ground pepper.
If you’re a vegetarian, or simply not into bacon, you can make the dressing by eliminating the bacon and substituting 1 teaspoon fresh or ½ teaspoon of dried dill. I also like green beans with feta, tomatoes and dill or oregano.