The question: I love fava and green beans in the summertime and would love to serve them at dinner parties, but they always look dull and grey after I cook them. Whenever I have them in French restaurants, they're bright green and vibrant. My daughter insists the chefs are probably just using MSG. Is she right?
The answer: It's not likely MSG they're using - just a simple technique called a "big pot blanch and shock." The key is to cook your green vegetables as quickly as possible so the heat doesn't have time to release their pigment and then shock them in ice water as soon as they're done. Fill the biggest pot in your kitchen - I use an eight-litre stockpot - with cold water and bring it to the hottest boil your stove can muster. Add a cup of table salt for every four litres of water, then dump in only as many vegetables as you can add without stopping the boil. Cook them in batches if you must. When they're done, scoop them out and chill immediately in a big pot of ice water. And maybe wear some protective sunglasses. They're going to be that bright.
Follow food writer and restaurant columnist Chris Nuttall-Smith on Twitter: @cnutsmith. Have an entertaining dilemma? E-mail email@example.com .