- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2009

Green bean salads generally are bit players on the summer food scene, but a few carefully chosen ingredients can transform them into scene stealers that let one of the season’s best offerings shine.

In this salad, the beans are briefly blanched and chilled, leaving them just tender-crisp. They then are tossed with a spunky vinaigrette of olive oil, sherry or red wine vinegar, and a healthy dose of garlic.

Crumbled cheese and crushed almonds finish the dish, but variety is key. For the cheese, you want something dry, crumbly and either sharp or deeply savory. A Parmesan works, as does a well-aged cheddar.

For the almonds, the best choice are Marcona almonds, which come from Spain. These flat, round almonds (widely available at gourmet and natural foods stores) are sweet and savory and usually are sold roasted and salted.

Marcona almonds taste nothing like American almonds. While they are crunchy, they aren’t dry. The oil and salt on them blends nicely with the vinaigrette.

Green bean salad with Marcona almonds

Start to finish: 15 minutes
Servings: 6

1 1/2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons sherry or red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup Marcona almonds, roughly chopped or crushed

1/4 cup crumbled aged cheddar or Parmesan (roughly 1/4-inch chunks)

Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately add the green beans to the ice water to cool. Drain again and spread on a kitchen towel to dry.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and garlic, then season with salt and pepper.

Add the green beans to the dressing, then toss to coat. Add three-quarters of the almonds and cheese, then toss. Sprinkle the remaining almonds and cheese over the salad. Serve immediately or chill.

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