green beans in summer
Keeping it simple, keeping it cool.
Fresh, crisp green beans, lightly and barely cooked then chilled. Drizzled with walnut oil. Scattered with toasted walnuts and fresh thyme leaves. Sprinkled with crunchy salt & crumbles of blue cheese. Served with anything off the grill or as one of a trio of summer salads. Simple and cool, like lemonade and a run through the sprinkler, just what we need, just as we need it.
A few secrets to beautifully cooked green beans:
Lots and lots of water…a big pot full of roiling, boiling water.
Lots of salt…way more than you think you’d need.
A quick cooking.
And, unless you’re serving immediately, a good ice-cold bath & toweling off. (the beans, I mean … but it might be just what you need too.)
Why so much water? Because when you drop the beans in, the temperature will naturally drop and will need to return to a boil…that takes far less time the more water you have. Why so much salt? It helps lock in the color AND salted water boils at a higher temperature. (Don’t worry – very little of it will be left on the beans.) As quick a cooking as possible because the longer they’re in hot water the limper and paler they become and the more of their vitamins and minerals they’ll lose. Why the quick ice bath? If you don’t cool them immediately, they’ll continue cooking outside the pot, well beyond their perfect doneness. (Thank you Julia Childs – how to cook good green beans, one of the first things I learned from you as a young cook.)
As usual when presenting vegetables, I’ll leave quantities safely in your own able hands. Here are just a list of ingredients & a few guidelines.
Green Beans in Summer with Walnut Oil, Walnuts & Blue Cheese
Fresh, crisp brightly colored green beans
Walnut oil (so delicious! You won’t be sorry you picked some up if you haven’t already)
Coarse, crunchy salt (like Fleur gris or Maldon) – (See NOTE)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
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NOTE on salt – if you enjoy salt, you’ll much prefer the crunchy little bits of a coarser, slower-dissolving kind in a dish like this. It adds another element & a distinctive texture to this simple dish.
Bring a big pot of water to boil on the stove. Add at least a tablespoon of salt. Prepare a bowl of ice water. Wash and trim green beans.
Once water has come to a full boil, drop in the beans and set the timer for 5 minutes. Remove a bean at this time and taste for crunch. If not quite al dente yet, give them another minute. (And so on…just slightly “undercooked” will work fine. Depending on your altitude and the size of your beans, this should take about 6 to 7 minutes.)
Drain in collander and quickly drop into ice water. Allow them to cool about 1 minute. Drain in colander and then roll gently in kitchen towel to dry as thoroughly as you can. Chill.
Lightly toast walnuts & coarsely chop. Toss green beans with a light drizzling of walnut oil, chopped walnuts, thyme leaves, coarse sea salt and top with crumbles of your favorite blue.
Goes well with picnics.
ps…this very same dish does well served warm.
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