There are green beans, and then there are green beans. After many years of cooking this vegetable, I’m here to say, freshness really counts.
Luckily for us, we are in green bean season. Look for beans that are bright green, firm and perky. And because it’s the season, green beans are likely to be cheap. Bonus.
Green beans can be sauteed, roasted or steamed. In the summer heat, I love to give them a quick boil or steam, and then drain them and transfer them to a bath of ice water to stop the cooking. That keeps them at a satisfying crisp-but-tender texture. It also locks in that vivid emerald colour, and makes green beans ideal for salads like this one.
This herb dressing is bright and bracing, with a lovely anise-y flavour from the tarragon. Letting the shallots sit in the vinegar with tarragon for a few minutes before adding the remaining dressing ingredients allows the shallots to pickle ever so slightly, giving this very simple dish an extra layer of flavour.
But you can also take this concept and play with it all through the late summer/early fall green bean months. Pick a favourite dressing and toss it with the blanched and cooled green beans. If you’re feeling hurried or just want to keep things simple, some fresh lemon juice, a generous splash of good olive oil and a sprinkling of slightly coarse salt will give you a side dish to be proud of.
And next time you are putting together an antipasti platter or some kind of nibble-y spread, remember these beans, which will add fresh flavour and colour to the collection.
GREEN BEANS WITH TARRAGON VINAIGRETTE
Start to finish: 15 minutes
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon leaves
1 tablespoon minced shallots
1 pound green beans, trimmed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (preferably coarse)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, tarragon and shallots. Set aside.
Plunge the beans into the boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes until just barely tender. Drain and drop them immediately into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Let them cool for a few minutes, then drain well.
Meanwhile, add the olive oil, mustard, and salt and pepper to the shallot mixture and stir to combine. Turn the drained and cooled beans into a serving dish or bowl, drizzle the dressing over them, and toss to coat the beans. Season with more salt and pepper if needed. Serve at room temperature.