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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.

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A few secrets to beautifully cooked green beans:Β 

Lots and lots of water…a big pot full of roiling, boiling water.

Lots of salt…way more than you think you’d need.

AΒ 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)

Walnuts

Coarse, crunchy salt (like Fleur gris or Maldon) – (See NOTE)

Blue cheese

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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to print, click here.

44 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sounds like a perfect snack when you’re between meals and search in the refrig for a quick, refreshing tidbit to munch.

    July 13, 2012
    • Yes, Ronnie, that too! A crunchy refreshingly tasty little snack too!

      July 13, 2012
  2. Your green beans look beautiful in the photos, Antoinette, and I like the flavors you’ve used, but not the salt content. I nuke my green beans with no salt at all (bleu cheese is salty anyway) in a little water for two to three minutes, depending on how tiny they are, or I toss them into pasta water for thirty seconds if I am eating them with pasta (I don’t salt pasta water either, since I am often eating pasta either with cheese or with a highly seasoned peanut sauce).

    July 13, 2012
    • Thanks for sharing your alternate tips on cooking green beans Sharyn. I microwave very little so wouldn’t have thought of that. I generally don’t like what the microwave does to the texture of foods, but haven’t tried it on green beans. We don’t use large quantities of blue cheese here…very little at a time. It seems to impart deep delicious flavor in such small amounts that I don’t worry about the salt content. For those watching closely their salt intake though, that’s definitely something to consider. Thanks Sharyn.

      July 13, 2012
  3. Oh, sweet spree.. there can be many ways to prepare veggies.. but I find yours the most entrancing and enticing of all! Your vibrant pictures (still life art) accompanied by your gentle and thorough descriptive words are a heavenly escape on a summer’s day. I can just imagine standing by a cooktop and popping these in and out of their baths! I adore salt and didn’t know that there is a slow dissolving kind, now I know why a certain type of salt is recommended in some dishes and not others:) I’m SO glad you’re back and have a full heart and a kitchen full of healthy stuff πŸ˜€ xoxo Smidge

    July 13, 2012
    • ah Smidge, you do so often make my days… I appreciate your kind words so much. Yes, beans love to bathe, even more so in summer… (and shouldn’t we all?) πŸ™‚ Like you,
      I l o v e salt too…do try a good Sel Gris (grey salt from Normandy) or Maldon salt…you’ll be amazed! Sel Gris has a higher moisture content, making it more resistant to dissolving in “wet” foods (like watermelon or cantaloupe for instance!) It’s used as a finishing salt on meats too. Great on veggies where you want to retain the crunch. One of the highest mineral contents of all finishing salts and….oh enough! You love salt, you’ve got to try it! πŸ™‚ (Are you back from your “buckeroo” days? Wherever you are, hope you have a wonderful weekend!) xoxo Spree

      July 13, 2012
  4. Yum yum! What beautiful, fresh photos. I can’t wait to prepare them just like you’ve described here! They sound positively delish. xoxo

    July 13, 2012
    • This is right up your street Ashley! Yes, You’ll love! πŸ™‚ xoxo

      July 13, 2012
  5. Ali #

    I’ve been preparing green beans in my home just the way you described, for years. It truly is the secret to good green beans! Can’t wait to try this summer variety! And good salts, really do make such a difference!!

    July 13, 2012
    • Let’s it hear it for the beans Ali, and then woop-woop to good salts too! Have a great weekend around your Bar-B, and a big happy birthday to that guy!! xoxo

      July 13, 2012
  6. Great dish!

    July 13, 2012
    • thanks Greg. Nothing unusual, but it’s really tasty.

      July 13, 2012
  7. Those are some stunning pictures of green beans. So simple but yet so yummy.

    July 13, 2012
  8. Kelly Loggan #

    Yum Yum Yum!!! Thank YOU, oh protege’ of Julia…never knew this about green beans!!! MUAH Ani dearest!!! Kelly Belly πŸ˜‰

    July 13, 2012
    • It seems so counter-intuitive to cook something green and nutritious in lots of water. It runs contrary to what we’ve been taught. But you get the rationale here, right? Makes total sense to me, and the proof is in the puddin’ as they say. πŸ™‚ Thanks and xo Kelly Belly!

      July 15, 2012
  9. Simply perfect. I’m glad to see that you are an advocate of Maldon salt. Even though the Vendee is world famous producer of sea salt, I still get friends to bring me Maldon salt from England.

    July 13, 2012
    • I’m crazy about Maldon salt! We’re lucky that here in Portland we have a store called The Meadow – (their only other is in NYC.) They have virtually every kind of salt – (an amazing assortment! – Himalayan pink, Maui black, applewood smoked, truffle, etc etc etc) – as well as chocolates and beautiful flowers. That’s all they sell. And they’re thriving! I have a few salts that I use regularly, but Maldon’s one of my very favorites!

      July 15, 2012
  10. peasepudding #

    Nice and simple, perfect with just a few additions

    July 14, 2012
    • I kind of think so too. πŸ™‚

      July 15, 2012
  11. Beautiful – we have runner (string) beans which would be happy to receive this tasty treatment πŸ™‚

    July 14, 2012
    • I saw where your blue cheese went, and oh did you put it to good use!! πŸ™‚

      July 15, 2012
  12. Green beans are a big part of my summer “harvest”. I love them and buy them as soon as they appear at the farmers market. Like you, Mom often made a salad with them and I bet she would have been very interested in this recipe — I know I am. Like you, Spree, she gave them a quick blanche and her salad was served cold or warm. But hers was a simple dressing and I can only imagine how good your salad tastes with the addition of walnuts, walnut oil and bleu cheese. This is, as Mom would say, “RIght up my alley.” πŸ™‚

    July 14, 2012
    • I’m glad you like (and your mom would!) the sound of these. This is the one year recently when I haven’t planted a garden, and I’m so missing it. Green bean vines wrapping around their tall bamboo teepees were the star of the show. I’m missing everything about them. So here I am, already looking forward to next summer. (tsk-tsk I know I shouldn’t.) BUT, thankfully we have lots of farmers growing them nearby and I’ve got my sources – though no longer within barefoot walking distance! πŸ™‚ But lucky lucky you!

      July 15, 2012
  13. musingmar #

    Beautiful simplicity. My whole family loves beans and I love your preparation! I like to serve them with their adorable little tails on, such cute little curlicues!

    July 14, 2012
    • I know! Aren’t those curly little tails reminiscent of puppy dogs or piglets? So becoming on a long green bean! πŸ™‚

      July 15, 2012
  14. Very nice! I wish I had green beans on hand. Must add them to my list.

    July 14, 2012
    • Yes, Anna, the beans are worthy of your list! πŸ™‚

      July 15, 2012
  15. Absolutely amazing! Good tips, even better photos. They look so fresh and delightful!

    July 14, 2012
  16. Thank you for the education on green beans I never knew and shall now be taking the advice πŸ™‚

    July 15, 2012
    • In this one instance it was Ms. Julia who gave you the education on green beans, with me as her most humble (and undeserving!) vessel! πŸ™‚

      July 15, 2012
  17. Oh how I wish I saw this earlier today!
    I just came home from a shopping trip and I did not buy green beans 😦
    That needs to be corrected on the way home from work tomorrow

    July 15, 2012
    • πŸ™‚ THank goodness for tomorrows!

      July 15, 2012
  18. I love using nut oils like this. What a fabulous summer side! Pinned πŸ™‚

    July 15, 2012
  19. I have never liked beans. They are beautiful, but… furry? What is that texture on the outside? But I have found a few – just a few – ways to cook them in a manner which makes them tolerable to me. Even likeable. This, my friend, looks like a green bean winner. And I think I’ll take it warm…

    July 15, 2012
    • Furry, Movita? What, luv? You don’t shave your green beans?

      July 17, 2012
  20. perfect! You have managed to write up something so simple and yet so perfect! I love fresh cooked beans, we grow lots and I’m going to add your recipe to me will cook later in summer list when I can pick them fresh. That’s a few weeks off and yet I’m really hankering after them now πŸ™‚
    And the way you describe how to cook and blanch them – superb!!

    July 15, 2012
    • Ahh thanks so much Claire! They’re at the top of my Most Loved Vegetables too!And lucky lucky you to have them coming in by the bushels-ful! πŸ™‚

      July 17, 2012
  21. Deb schneider #

    I learn so much from reading spree :). Thank you, dear one.

    July 17, 2012
  22. Lovely colander! Beans sound delish too, I usually toss mine with flaked almonds and sherry vinegar, definitely going for walnuts next time! Beautiful new kitchen btw soooo jealous!

    August 23, 2012
    • Green beans are one of summer’s best we think. Love having lots of ways to change them up a bit, and like you, we like them with almonds too.

      August 26, 2012

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