Today: How to coax the most flavor out of sweet summer beans.
You're probably thinking: those look like sautéed green beans -- I don't need a Genius Recipe for that! But their secret is tucked away inside, in parsing the fine details. You just have to do the opposite of what you've been doing.
See, green beans have a whole lot more potential than we realize. Their natural state can be severe, squeaky -- our goal is to break through that, but we're going about it all wrong.
We tend to blanch them first thing, washing away some of their character -- even if we're going to sauté them. (I'm not sure why we do that, other than impatience, or an abstract desire for brighter color.) Or we throw them into salads as a vehicle for dressing, a willing but silent sidekick to Niçoise's tuna and olives.
Even if we skipped blanching, we'd probably absently sauté some shallot or garlic, then add the beans -- so they end up tasting like sautéed shallot or garlic. None of this leads to bad green beans. But they could be even better.
This technique, which comes from cookbook author Penelope Casas by way of Food52er creamtea -- looks embarrassingly simple, and it is. But it shakes up our habits, and with 4 ingredients, lets green beans become their best selves.
You throw raw green beans into a hot pan with butter and nothing else, and sear them over an irresponsibly high flame.
When they start to get some brown splotches, cover the pan and turn down the heat. Resist the temptation to add liquid. They'll stew in their own juices, and their flavor will be completely undiluted.
Then, just when they're looking a little saggy and soft and they taste sweet (roughly 15 minutes later), you take them off the heat and add ingredients 3 and 4: salt and pulverized garlic.
You could leave the garlic out, but its pushy sting will soften a little on the warmth of the beans. It frames our focus.
Penelope Casas' Garlic Green Beans (Judias Verdes con Ajo)
Adapted slightly from The Foods and Wines of Spain (Knopf, 1982)
3/4 pounds fresh green beans
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
Photos by James Ransom