Do you garden? The first of my green beans are starting to appear. The vines have already grown up the bamboo trellis that lines the side yard fence, and have reached up and over the fence, meaning my neighbor may get as many beans from my plants as I do. I never know how the beans are going to cook up, even if they are from my own garden. The most important thing to look for when choosing beans at the market is that they snap when you bend them, versus bending like a rubber band. This means they’re fresh. But even if they are fresh, they may still take forever to cook. I had garden beans last year that still weren’t tender after 20 minutes of boiling. I finally gave up. Ideally, young, fresh green beans should be just cooked after a minute or two. Cooked, but crisp. (If you find yourself with a batch of green beans that are tough and old, and refusing to become tender, save them for cooking in a soup.)
Here’s a tip. Green vegetables when cooked for seven minutes or longer, or exposed to acid like lemon juice or vinegar, will turn a drab olive color. That’s why if you want green beans that stay green, cook them 6 minutes or less, and then plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking. If you add vinegar, do so after you’ve coated the beans with oil.
This green bean salad recipe comes via my friend Heidi H in Massachusetts, adapted from a 1992 recipe in Bon Appétit. It combines blanched fresh green beans with lots of fresh basil and grated Parmesan, with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Heidi and her kids love it, and so do we. Enjoy!
To save time, while the water is coming to a boil, prep the other ingredients.
- 1 1/2 pounds trimmed green beans, cut to 2 to 3 inch long pieces
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion (or shallots)
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 1/2 ounces)
- Freshly ground black pepper
1 Place the chopped onions in a small bowl of water. This will help take the edge off the onions. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.
2 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (2 Tbsp salt for 2 quarts of water). Add the green beans to the water and blanch only for about 2 minutes or so, until the beans are just barely cooked through, but still crisp. Fresh young beans should cook quickly. Older, tougher beans may take longer. While the beans are cooking, prepare a large bowl of ice water. When the beans are ready, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the boiling water to the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the green beans and the red onions.
3 Place the green beans, red onion, and chopped basil in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the olive oil, toss to coat. Sprinkle in the balsamic and Parmesan cheese. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Chill until ready to serve.