I love dishes that are elegant enough for company yet easy enough for every day. I put this salad in that category: you can serve it at a dinner party or a picnic. The fresh thyme is essential, please don't use dried thyme. And if you grow your own herbs you know that thyme flowers are tasty as well as impossibly cute. Don't worry if you don't have thyme flowers, your salad will still be delicious. I'd like this with a few cherry tomato halves tossed in, but they're not in season here yet. If you have some, try adding them for extra sparkle. - Abra Bennett —Abra Bennett
Test Kitchen Notes
Abra Bennett has reinvented the standard shallot vinaigrette beautifully -- her version is sweet from the softened shallots, tart from the sherry vinegar and woodsy from the thyme leaves, with a uniquely pulpy texture that coats the green beans with flavor without masking the taste of the green bean itself. Creamy, salty feta and crunchy, toasty almonds round the salad out and make it fancy. Note: The consistency of the dressing will vary depending on the size of your shallot -- you may want to first blend it with less vinegar and oil than the recipe calls for and add more as needed. - Kristen —The Editors
Rinse and trim green beans. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a full boil, add beans, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Scoop them into a large bowl filled with ice and cold water and let rest until they are thoroughly chilled. Remove the beans to a colander to drain. When well drained, roll the beans in a clean kitchen towel until dry.
In a small nonstick pan, heat 1 T olive oil. Add the almonds and brown them lightly, stirring continuously, over medium heat. When the almonds are golden brown place them on a paper towel to drain.
Slice the shallot and put in in the same pan you used for the almonds. Over medium-low heat, let shallot soften and sweeten while barely letting it brown. This will take about 5 minutes.
Place the shallots in a blender, add the 1/4 cup of olive oil and the 2 T sherry vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and a grinding of black pepper. Blend to a uniform puree.
In a salad bowl, toss the shallot dressing with the green beans, add the thyme, and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes so that the beans can absorb some of the dressing. While the beans are resting, slice the feta into slivers.
Taste the beans and add additional salt and pepper as necessary. You want to salad to have a lively amount of seasoning. Toss the feta and almonds very gently with the green beans, or compose individual plates of salad so that the feta doesn't get broken. Sprinkle with the thyme flowers if using, and serve at room temperature.