The key to cooking green beans — How do I keep green beans bright green? They always turn an olive color on me.
The key to cooking green beans - really, to cooking most green vegetables - is to cook them in three stages: blanch them, shock them, saute them. This is my preferred method for dealing with green beans, broccoli, asparagus and sugar snap peas.
First, bring a large pot of water to boil. The more water you use, the less it will cool down when you add the vegetables, and the quicker it will come back to a boil. And, unless you have been advised by a doctor to limit your salt intake, add a good amount of salt to the pot. Remember, you are not going to consume all this salt; most of it will stay in the water. But salt will help fix the bright green color you are looking for.
You want to cook your vegetables until they are just short of ideal tenderness. After a few minutes, use tongs or a slotted spoon to pull them out for sampling, so they don't overcook.
While the vegetables cook, set up your shocking apparatus. The goal here is to bring down the temperature of the vegetables as quickly as possible. Fill your sink or a very large bowl or pot with cold water and plenty of ice cubes and/or freezer packs. When the vegetables are cooked, work quickly: With a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the vegetables to a colander, give the colander a good shake, then empty the vegetables into "the shocker." Swish them around.
When the vegetables are cool, place them back in the colander and shake out excess water. Dump the vegetables on a kitchen towel or a few layers of paper towel, and blot dry. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate for up to a day.
When you are ready to serve, you can saute the vegetables in butter or olive oil.
Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.