Beans, beans, good for your heart…

Have you bean there, done that with all of your green bean recipes? Here are two very different, yet very delicious green bean salads — one with tomato, mozzarella and basil; the other with spiced pecans, blue cheese and mustard vinaigrette. Which will become your new go-to?

Green beans are definitely good food, no matter how you snap them. They’re low in calories, high in fiber and full of iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins A, B6 and C. And they’re versatile and delicious to boot!

Every summer, Mike and I enjoy planting green beans in our garden because they’re easy to grow and produce abundantly all season. Apparently this year we planted the world’s most prolific variety of green beans ever (see details below). Granted the seed packet promised to be “vigorous and productive with high yields of extra-fancy pods,” but who really believes those packaging claims anyway? Literally, we’ve had beans coming out of our ears all summer and throughout September! That’s not a complaint mind you, but with only two people to eat bushels of green beans, it’s been a bit challenging to continuously come up with different preparations week after week. Nice problem to have…

I will share two simple recipes that received cheers for encore performances, but first, and most importantly, let’s start with how to properly blanch green beans. Regardless of whether you plan to sautee them later or serve them cold in a salad, the first critical step is to perfect the blanching process.

How to produce a perfectly blanched green bean

There’s nothing yuckier than being served a limp, gray, overcooked bean. Trust me, I grew up in Atlanta at a time when overcooked vegetables were the mark of a true Southern diet. Now we know that overcooking depletes vegetables of their nutrients and minerals. Quickly blanching green beans ensures that they retain their inherent goodness and flavor. The perfectly blanched bean should still be bright green and al dente (slightly crisp to the bite).

The first step in learning to properly blanch beans is to remember that they will continue to cook once you have removed them from the pot, so always err on the side of under-cooking them to accommodate for the residual cooking process. First, bring a large pot of salted water to a nice boil. As you’re waiting for the water to boil, go ahead and set your timer to the appropriate time based on the size of your beans and your desired doneness — large beans will take about 5 minutes; medium-size will take about 4 minutes; and small, very thin beans will take just 3 minutes. Once the water boils, go ahead and throw the beans in and start the timer immediately.

img_1590When the timer sounds, select one of the smallest beans and taste for doneness. Again, don’t forget to plan for the residual cooking — if it’s slightly shy of your desired doneness, it’s probably ready. Immediately drain the beans in a colander and flush with very cold water for at least a minute to reverse the cooking process (better yet, place beans in an ice bath, if you’re so inclined). Gently turn the beans over in the colander so that all receive the effects of the cold water. Allow the beans to drain completely and then lay them out on paper towels to dry. Once you have your perfectly blanched beans, there are loads of things you can do with them! Try these…


Green Bean Caprese Salad

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Traditional Caprese ingredients -- tomato, mozzarella and basil -- add a fresh twist to this colorful and delicious salad.


  • 12 oz. green beans
  • 3 oz. mozzarella “pearls” (or mozzarella ball, cut into ½-inch dice)
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small shallot (or thin slice of sweet Vidalia onion), minced
  • Fresh basil, julienned
  • Basil oil* (optional)
  • 1 small garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 Tbl. Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbl. Lemon juice
  • 3 Tbl. EVOO
  • Salt, pepper
  • Red chile flakes (optional)


Blanch green beans to desired doneness, as described above. While beans are drying on paper towels, prepare the dressing. Whisk together the minced garlic, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Whisking constantly, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Season with salt, pepper and chile flakes (if using). Add the green beans, minced shallot (or onion), mozzarella pearls, cherry tomatoes and julienned basil right into the bowl. Toss gently until all is coated in the dressing. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap or place in an airtight container, and refrigerate for at least an hour. Gently toss again before serving and add additional julienned basil as a garish.

*Basil oil adds an extra layer of complexity to this dish. Refer to my basil oil recipe at: Got herbs?  I always keep small cubes of basil oil stored in the freezer, so I can quickly thaw one out and get that fresh basil flavor any time.

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Green Bean Salad with Spiced Pecans

Green Bean Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette and Spiced Pecans

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
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Sweet 'n spicy pecans and blue cheese make this green bean salad a treasure trove of flavors.


  • ½ lb slender green beans, blanched
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed*
  • 1/2 Tbl Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 Tbl  white balsamic vinegar (champagne or white wine vinegar can be substituted)
  • 1/2 Tbl lemon juice
  • Pinch or two of dried thyme
  • Pinch of red chile flakes (optional)
  • ¼ cup EVOO
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • Handful of lightly toasted pecan halves or Sweet ‘n Heat Pecans (see separate recipe)
  • Crumbled blue cheese (crumbled goat cheese or feta can be substituted)
  • Fresh basil, julienned
  • Salt/pepper to taste


Blanch beans according to directions above. While blanched beans are drying on paper towels, make the dressing. Place the minced or pressed garlic in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the Dijon, the lemon juice and the vinegar (I prefer white balsamic for its inherent sweetness, but other white wine vinegars will do). Adding the olive oil in a slow stream, whisk continually until the dressing emulsifies (comes together in a blended, thickened mixture). Add the thyme, crushed red pepper (if desired), salt and pepper, and whisk again to blend.

Place the green beans in a medium bowl and add the minced shallot. Toss with a tablespoon or two of the dressing, adding more, if necessary. (You will likely have dressing leftover for another use.) Transfer the beans to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the spiced pecans and crumbled cheese. Top with the julienned basil. The beans can be served room temperature (my preference) or cold. If serving cold, wait to add the pecans until just before serving, as they will get soggy in the fridge.

img_1592* If you ever find you’ve run out of fresh garlic (God forbid!) or you’re in a hurry and/or just don’t feel like mincing fresh, I recommend Dorot’s frozen crushed garlic cubes. I keep them in the freezer all the time for just those emergencies. It’s simply garlic, canola oil and salt, and it has a much more real garlic flavor than the jarred varieties. They’re portioned into tiny cubes, each equivalent to one medium-size garlic clove, and they last a good long time in the freezer, so you’ll never be without.



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Sweet ‘n Heat Pecans


  • 10 oz. pkg. pecan pieces or chopped pecans
  • 1 ½ Tbl butter
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme or rosemary
  • Shake of cinnamon
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt/fresh ground pepper


Toast the pecans in a medium-sized dry, non-stick skillet over low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and slightly golden. Remove from the heat and add the butter and brown sugar, tossing the pecans to coat with the caramelized sugar mixture. Add the herbs and spices and toss again to blend well. Pour the nuts out onto a sheet of wax paper to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.


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Note: Mike and I both prefer slim, tender beans to the fat, tough varieties often found at the grocery. (I’m the crazy lady you see pawing through the bean bin trying to unearth the thinnest ones available – don’t judge.) In past years, we’ve been unable to find the type of bean plants we want in our local nurseries, so this year, we decided to plant from seed. We selected a thin string bean from Renee’s Garden called Pole Filet Beans ( As promised, the plants have been “vigorous and productive” and have yielded a never-ending crop of gorgeous, slender, tasty beans similar to French hericots verts. And they were SO easy to grow! Just pop the seeds in the ground, wait a couple of weeks, and get ready!

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