One of the easiest things to get wrong is cooking green beans. A woman I gave a cooking lesson to once asked me how to cook them until they were “really, really soft but still green” so her son would eat them.
Well, it’s impossible. While I know of some Persian dishes that require long cooking times for green beans, haricot verts, yellow wax beans, and regular green beans should and can stay bright if cooking until crisp or just tender. Otherwise they turn that unappetizing chartreuse color. I find that most kids like to lift up there vividly green beans one by one and feel a little snap with every bite.
Getting there is easy. Bring a very large pot of water to a rolling boil. Season generously with salt. Add the green beans making sure there is plenty of water for them to swim in. It should only take a few seconds for the water to come back up to a boil. If not, place your lid on the pot to speed up the process of reheating the water.
After 45 seconds, taste a bean. It should be mildly flavored with a little bit of a snap. You can cook them a little longer for a more tender bean. If serving them right away, transfer the beans to a serving platter.
If not, transfer them immediately to a large ice water bath to shock and preserve the color. Once cold but no longer than that (about 30 seconds), transfer the beans to a paper towel lined sheet tray or colander to drain off any excess water. Use immediately or store in an airtight container for up to three days.
From here the possibilities are endless. Try the following easy, short recipes with 1-1/2 pounds of cooked greens beans.
1) Toss beans with 2 Cups halved cherry tomatoes, zest of 1 lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or prepare up to 1 day ahead and store in the refrigerator.
2) Melt 1 stick of unsalted butter in a large pan over medium heat. Sweat 1 sliced shallot and 5 minced garlic cloves in butter. Once soft, add 1 cup of dry bread crumbs and cook until golden. Reheat the beans quickly in the microwave or in a pan with 2 Tbsps. water just until hot. Toss with breadcrumbs and serve immediately.