These aren't your childhood green beans
There are green beans, and then there are green beans. After many years of cooking this vegetable, I'm here to say, freshness really counts.
Luckily for us, we are in green bean season. Look for beans that are bright green, firm and perky. And because it's the season, green beans are likely to be cheap. Bonus.
Green beans can be sauteed, roasted or steamed. In the summer heat, I love to give them a quick boil or steam, and then drain them and transfer them to a bath of ice water to stop the cooking. That keeps them at a satisfying crisp-but-tender texture. It also locks in that vivid emerald color, and makes green beans ideal for salads like this one.
This herb dressing is bright and bracing, with a lovely anise-y flavor from the tarragon. Letting the shallots sit in the vinegar with tarragon for a few minutes before adding the remaining dressing ingredients allows the shallots to pickle ever so slightly, giving this very simple dish an extra layer of flavor.
But you can also take this concept and play with it all through the late summer/early fall green bean months. Pick a favorite dressing and toss it with the blanched and cooled green beans. If you're feeling hurried or just want to keep things simple, some fresh lemon juice, a generous splash of good olive oil and a sprinkling of slightly coarse salt will give you a side dish to be proud of.
And next time you are putting together an antipasti platter or some kind of nibble-y spread, remember these beans, which will add fresh flavor and color to the collection.
• Katie Workman has written two cookbooks focused on easy, family-friendly cooking, "Dinner Solved!" and "The Mom 100 Cookbook." She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at Katie@themom100.com.