Monday, September 17, 2012

Cooking Fresh Green Beans

Beans from my garden: green and yellow wax. They all cook up the same.

One of the great things about our classes is I get to talk to college students about what they eat and what they know how to cook. This is my absolute best generator of blog post ideas. I am a chef (why else would you listen to me?) and that means I know how to cook. I take a lot of basic skills for granted. My students bring me back to the real world.

So, here's a basic skill: cooking fresh green beans. Green beans are delicious, particularly fresh ones from the garden or the farmer's market. Green beans from the supermarket are still lovely and often cheap - around 99¢ per pound - during summer and early fall. They are easy and quick. The hardest part is cleaning them, and that isn't so hard.

Selecting good beans: bright green, no brown (those were picked over a week ago), no wrinkles. Definitely no slime. Not too big. Commercial beans are tender until they get pretty big but they are still better when under 6" long. Once you get them home, cook them within 5 days. If they start getting rusty-brown, cook them immediately. Once cooked, they freeze well or keep in the fridge for about 5 days.

Getting the water ready to cook them: put a medium pot of water to boil. Not a small pot and not a little water. Enough water to fill the pot ¾ way full. Add about a teaspoon of salt.

Cleaning them: while the water is coming to a boil, cut off the stem end (see picture below). Put in a bowl of cold water. When all the beans are stemmed, swish around the beans in the water to wash them.

Cooking them: when your water is boiling, it's time to cook. Lift the beans out of the cold water, rather than pour off the water. By lifting them, you are leaving any dirt at the bottom of the bowl. Put in the boiling water and cook for anywhere from 3-7 minutes. Why the range? It depends on how crunchy you like your beans. At 3 minutes, they are still squeaky-crunchy. I prefer them cooked longer, but you can decide for yourself.

Eating the beans later?: if you are not eating all the beans right away, you need to chill them down so they stop cooking. Put them in clean cold water. Add ice to cool them down even quicker if you've got it. Drain them well and store in the fridge. To reheat, zap in the microwave for a minute or two.

Eating now?: season with with some salt (if you like), drizzle on some olive oil or mix with some butter.

This basic process of clean, cook in lots of boiling water, and chill down is common to most vegetables. The big difference is how long you cook each vegetable. We'll have more basic vegetable cooking instructions in the future.

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