There’s nothing better than a simple dish of super-fresh string beans, perfectly cooked, with a little great-quality butter, a touch of lemon and good salt and pepper. The beautiful thing is that you can trim and cut them, blanch them, and hold them till just before the meal, at which point you can dress them up in no time flat.
From the story: Really, no need to panic
Fill a large pot with plenty of water (at least 6 quarts) and bring it to a boil. Add enough salt for it to taste like seawater.
Drop in the green beans and cook them until just blanched (tender-crisp), about 4 to 5 minutes.
Drain the beans and shock them in ice water. Drain again, pat them dry in a towel, and set aside until ready to use. (If overnight, refrigerate.)
Just before serving, melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the beans and warm through over medium heat. If they’re still too crunchy, you can continue warming them, stirring now and then, until they’re the texture you like.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Add fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, and serve.
Shallot green beans: Warm the beans in 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil instead of butter. Instead of lemon zest and juice, stir in 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, 2 teaspoons of your highest-quality olive oil and one-fourth cup thinly sliced shallots.
Shallot-red pepper green beans: Warm the beans in 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil instead of the butter. Instead of lemon zest and juice, stir in one-fourth cup diced roasted red (or red and yellow) bell pepper and one-fourth cup thinly sliced shallots.
Haricots verts: Substitute whole, trimmed haricots verts for the cut green beans in the original recipe or any of the green bean variations.
Broccoli with Meyer lemon: Substitute broccoli florets for the green beans, cooking about 3 minutes.
Shallot-red pepper broccoli: As above for shallot-red pepper green beans, substituting broccoli florets for the green beans, cooking about 3 minutes.
Brussels sprouts with roasted red pepper: Trim a pound of Brussels sprouts and cut lengthwise into quarters; use those instead of the green beans and cook about 5 minutes. Omit the Meyer lemon zest and juice and stir in 3 tablespoons diced roasted red (or red and yellow) pepper.
Brussels sprouts with hazelnuts: Trim a pound of Brussels sprouts and cut lengthwise into quarters; use instead of the green beans and cook about 5 minutes. Warm in 1 tablespoon canola oil instead of the butter. Instead of the Meyer lemon zest and juice, stir in three-fourths cup chopped toasted hazelnuts and 1 1/2 tablespoons roasted hazelnut oil.
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