Sunday, November 22, 2020

Rosie Makes A Green Bean Salad With A Balsamic Vinaigrette


 For Thanksgiving, I'm eschewing the traditional green bean casserole.  Why?  I've got something better - a green bean salad (actually two) that's bright green, full of flavor and textures, and tastes so fresh.


I've got two variations on the green bean theme today and you can make them as is or pick and choose and make the salad your own.  I'm just putting out some suggestions here.  

 First, however, the beans need to be properly cooked.  I want them al dente, not al mushe.  And the way to do that, plus retain the grassy green flavor and vibrant color (We don't want olive drab beans.) is by blanching the beans in heavily salted water.  Heavily salted water speeds up the cooking of vegetables so you're able to get a tender, spearable-with-a-fork bean without boiling all the color and flavor out of them.  By "heavily salted" I mean similar to sea water (approximately 3%), so we're talking about 2 tablespoons salt per quart of water.  According to Harold McGee in his book On Food And Cooking, there's an enzyme that's activated in warm to hot water that destroys chlorophyll (and hence the color of the beans).  By using a high concentration of salt in the blanching water, the boiling temperature of the water is raised and the enzyme is prevented from damaging the bean.  Per McGee, "when vegetables are cooked in salted water, sodium ions displace some of the calcium ions in their cell walls. Calcium ions strengthen pectin—the glue that holds plant cell walls together—by allowing it to form cross-links, and the ions’ displacement prevents that cross-linking and causes the vegetable to soften. (It is for precisely the same reason that we like to brine dried beans in salt water: The displacement of the calcium ions in their skins softens them and prevents them from bursting during cooking.)"

So there you have it.
Heavily salt your water.

 First trim the ends and chop the beans into 1-inch lengths.
For a quart of water, I used 1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt.  Bring the water to a boil. 
I dropped in 2 cups trimmed beans and cooked for about 6 minutes.


Immediately drain the beans,
then drop them into ice water.
This stops the cooking and also
sets the color.

Drain when ready to use. 

  Green Beans #1 With Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 cups trimmed green beans, cooked as above,
1/4 cup toasted whole almonds
1/4 cup diced feta cheese
4 large basil leaves, chiffonade  (Technique shown below.)
2 TB chopped red onion
Combine all ingredients.

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 TB lemon juice
2 tsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely minced or pressed
2 tsp honey
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Mix all ingredients except for olive oil.
Slowly whisk in oil to make an emulsion.
Add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Pour vinaigrette over bean mixture.
Toss to coat.  

For the basil chiffonade:

  A chiffonade is a slicing technique.

Stack the basil leaves
and roll up tightly.

Slice thinly across roll.
Separate and add to bean mixture.

Combine all 

Pour vinaigrette over
and toss to coat.



  For the next green bean salad, I'm going with a slightly different flavor profile. I'm using a citrusy vinaigrette, tomatoes, and sweet bell peppers.  With the peppers, I'm getting two flavors out of one - I'll be using the peppers raw and also charred.

Green Bean Salad #2

 2 cups prepared green beans (trimmed, sliced, blanched, shocked, drained)
4 oz. diced feta cheese
1/4 chopped red onion
2 of those mini sweet bell peppers, red, yellow, or orange or combination, mini-diced
6 cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 TB fresh mint, chopped
4 mini sweet bell peppers, charred, skin removed, then minced
Combine all ingredients.
Pour dressing over and toss to combine.


Mix together:
2 TB lime juice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

Whisk in:
about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (I used Greek Koroneiki.)

Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

When making vinaigrettes, please do not skimp on ingredients when it comes to your balsamic vinegars and olive oils.  Use quality ingredients!  I recommend going to an olive oil shop where you can taste specialty oils and vinegars before you buy.  The extra plus here is that you'll probably be supporting a local small business.  

There are three local wine/olive oil/balsamic vinegar establishments that I patronize:  

Outer Banks Olive Oil 

The Spice and Tea Exchange

Ella's Olive 

  Now, let's char some peppers:

Skewer peppers and place over flame.
Use the broiler if you don't have a gas cook top.





Blacken all over.






Immerse charred peppers in ice water.
Use thumb and forefinger to rub off blackened skin.
It doesn't have to be perfect.  A bit of char only adds flavor.







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