Green beans, snap beans, string beans, or whatever you wish to call them, are of many varieties: some are flat, others are round, still others are a mottled green rather than a uniform color. Most of those on the market today are stringless. Whichever you buy, look for beans which are clean, fresh-looking, firm, and which snap crisply and contain immature seeds. If possible, select beans all of the same circumference so they will cook evenly. The smaller around they are, the more they will approach tiny French beans; a diameter of not more than 1/4 inch is most desirable.
Fresh beans take time to prepare for cooking, but have so much more flavor than frozen beans that they are well worth the trouble. The cooking itself is easy; however, beans demand attention if they are to be fresh-tasting, full of flavor, and green. Although their preliminary blanching may be taken care of hours in advance, the final touches should be done only at the last minute. It is fatal to their color, texture, and taste if they are overcooked, or if they are allowed to sit around over heat for more than a few minutes after they are ready to be eaten.
Green beans will go with just about any meat dish, or may constitute a separate vegetable course.
Amount to Buy
One pound of beans will serve 2 or 3 people depending on your menu.
Preparation for Cooking
Snap the tip of one end of a bean with your fingers and draw it down the length of one side of the bean to remove any possible string. Do the same thing with the other end, pulling it down the other side of the bean.
Beans of not much more than 1/4 inch in diameter are cooked whole, and retain their maximum flavor. If they are large in circumference, you may slice them on the bias to make several 2 1/2-inch lengths per bean; this or machine slicing is usually called Frenched beans though it is rarely done in France as it is seldom necessary. Sliced beans never have the flavor of whole beans.
Wash the beans rapidly in very hot water the moment before cooking.