It turns out that many of the foods we eat are mostly water, and cooks take advantage of that one way or another through the physics of cooking. In the case of green vegetables, such as beans and asparagus, we often lightly boil or steam them to prevent drying out or over-cooking. But there's another approach: manipulate the water content through dry-heat cooking, which concentrates the flavors as some of the water inside the vegetables evaporates.
The recipes here are a western daydream of the dry-heat, pan-charring mastery I encountered a while back when Thai-Chinese friends took me to a Bangkok Chinese restaurant famous for its amazing ways with vegetables. Bonus: This is even easier and faster than boiling and shocking in ice water.Get ready: This will become your new favorite way to do green beans. We love the light anise flavor of tarragon, but you could use any herb you like—try parsley, chives, or thyme.
Pan-Charred Green Beans with TarragonHands-on: 11 min. Total: 11 min.Cooking spray8 ounces washed and trimmed fresh green beans1 1/2 teaspoons butter1 tablespoon cider vinegar2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Heat a medium, heavy skillet (not nonstick) over high heat for 2 minutes.2. Coat pan with cooking spray. Immediately add green beans to pan, shaking them into a single layer; cook, without stirring, 2 minutes or until beans are very lightly charred. Cook beans 5 more minutes or until crisp-tender and evenly charred, tossing occasionally.3. Remove pan from heat. Let beans rest 1 minute. Add butter; toss until butter melts and coats beans. Add vinegar; toss. Turn on heat if necessary to evaporate most of liquid. Sprinkle beans with tarragon and salt; toss. Serve immediately.
VARIATION: PAN-CHARRED ASPARAGUSIn place of green beans, use 8 ounces (2½-inch) pieces of trimmed asparagus. Use 1½ teaspoons toasted walnut oil in place of butter and 2 teaspoons lemon juice in place of vinegar. After tossing asparagus with tarragon and salt, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped, toasted walnuts and 2 tablespoons shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.
SERVES 4 (serving size: about 2/3 cup)CALORIES 52; FAT 4g (sat 0.7g); SODIUM 160mg