I couldn’t make this just about beans…because the truth is this method will work for any…and I mean any dense or firm vegetable.
Sauté – unlike frying – is to cook food quickly (usually well under 10 minutes) in a wide, flat bottomed skillet, in a small amount of oil, over high heat. That’s why ingredients like chicken, pork and beef are cut into small, uniform pieces…so they can cook thoroughly in a short amount of time.
But what happens when we want to sauté dense, firm vegetables like green beans, or cauliflower, or broccoli, potatoes of course, but even asparagus if it’s thick? Cutting them in small pieces won’t help much. By the time you get the pieces tender, the outside will be overdone; or when the outside is tender, the inside is still too raw. So here’s what to do.
First blanch them in boiling water for a minute or two…until they just begin to get tender and drain. Some recipes call you to add the vegetable to an ice bath to stop them from cooking further, but I like to simply blanch them a little less. Here’s why. When you add ice cold beans (or anything) to a hot sauté pan, it brings down the temperature of the pan. But you need it hot! Hot so the vegetable don’t get soggy and oily. Hot so they come out crispy and flavorful. When blanched, vegetables go from hot to hot instead of from ice cold to hot. Much better.
So now your beans are drained and hot. but let’s back up a bit and start at the beginning for this recipe.
Green Beans with Garlic and Tomato
1 lb. (.45 kg) green beans
1 large clove garlic – finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil – or enough to cover the bottom of the pan
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (59 ml) of tomato sauce (get my recipe here)
Season with salt and pepper
Add water (enough to immerse the beans) to a saucepan and bring to a boil
Trim them. Here a handy little diagram from “Real Simple” or do it the old fashioned way and grab a bunch in your hands and snap the ends. I like to do both ends, though you can totally leave the ends with the little, skinny tips.
Step 1. Line up the stems. The beans’ tough, knobby ends need to go, but the other ends (the skinny, tapered tips) are tender and perfectly fine to eat. Sort the beans so that the stems all face one direction. Scoot a handful against your palm so that they’re even.
Step 2. Using a chef’s knife, cut off the knobby ends with one slice.