These are the beans I ate one September night after night on my cousin’s farm in Tuscany -- beans so good you will want to eat them with your fingers, one by one. I never tired of them. Salt, pepper and olive oil were always on the table to dress the beans. To taste their full sweetness, cook the beans a few moments beyond the tender-crisp stage we’ve become accustomed to. Salting the water and salting the beans while they’re still hot are essential for opening up their flavors. Good olive oil, tasting of fruit and nuts, makes a lovely finish, but the beans are superb without it too. On our family table in Tuscany, they’re served at room temperature. I’ve come to like them this way.
Cook to Cook: Of course, the beans must be good to begin with, and garden-fresh are best. But this recipe works with the sturdier beans shipped long distances in winter. When buying green beans, check for freshness by breaking one in half. It should snap and taste flavorful, with a hint of sweetness. Don’t buy beans that are dull and flat-tasting, wilted, puckery, or limp. Serve these beans with almost anything. They freshen mellow roasted or braised dishes, foil hot and spicy ones, tone down tart ones and are just right with grilled fish or meat.
- 8 quarts boiling water in a 12-quart pot
- 1/3 cup salt (kosher preferred)
- 3 1/2 to 4 pounds green beans, trimmed of stem ends
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea salt) and fresh-ground black pepper to taste
1. Add salt to the boiling water. Drop in the beans and boil uncovered 5 to 10 minutes, until tender but with no hint of mushiness. Timing varies greatly according to the age, size, and freshness of the beans. Taste for doneness and trust your judgment, not the clock. Drain immediately in colander and turn into a bowl.
2. Season the hot beans with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature. Eating with fingers is encouraged.