By now I think I can safely say that Montréal is out of its deep freeze and my parka can be safely tucked away for another few months. Spring also means that I can look forward to seasonal harvests, which get me excited about all the fresh produce I can use for home cooking. Depending on where you are, green beans may be coming in season, either now in the spring or by the summer. Here in Montréal, my local grocery store was having a sale so I stocked on a bulk buy. Green beans are great frozen so after washing the beans and trimming the ends I froze half away and used the other, fresh half to make a salad for a potluck.
I wanted to bring a dish that had spring written all over it so what is more perfect than a green bean salad? However, I wanted to make sure the recipe was a good one, especially for those who may not be the biggest fan of vegetables.
One of my favourite websites for recipes is food52, which holds contests for such topics as “best cheap feast” and “your best fennel.” Readers/cooks submit their recipes, which get dwindled down to four finalists with the winner being picked through reader selection. All recipes submitted become archived in the website, with finalist and winners’ recipes clearly marked for easy accessibility. And at the end of the year, the website — founded by former New York Times reporters — publishes a cookbook featuring the recipes of contest winners.
food52 also features recipes from selected cooks, their cookbooks, and from the website’s professional food reporters. The website leans on what I would describe as more gourmet than, say allrecipes.com which I find caters to a home-style kind of cooking — which is definitely good in its own right. Whereas at food52, I find the top-rate recipes tend to have more exotic ingredients (smoked paprika is a highly used ingredient) accompanied by many professional photographs of the dishes. And for some reason, I feel like I cannot go wrong with food52’s recipes, particularly those from contest winners. Their recipes, however, may require more elbow grease than some other website recipes. So when I have some time and want a recipes to win over the crowd, I definitely find myself consulting food52.
This green bean recipe from food52 reader AntoniaJames requires haricots verts which are French beans and is translated simply as “green beans.” Haricots verts are a little thinner than other green bean varieties, so you need to be careful when cooking the beans as the beans are very prone to becoming mush if overcooked. I used the generic American green bean variety which is thicker than haricots verts, and steamed them in a stove pot, checking frequently to make sure there was still a bit of firmness in the beans.
The recipe also calls for roasted garlic. I absolutely love roasted garlic and it is so simple to do. Just take a whole head of garlic, chop off the top to expose the chopped tips of the garlic head. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, Kosher (or sea) salt, and pepper. Cover the whole garlic in aluminum foil and in a preheated oven at 360 degrees, pop the garlic in for about 20 minutes or more until soft. You can use leftover bulbs not used in the recipe to smear or toasted baguette slices, sandwiches, and anything else you fancy. The accompanying Dijonnaise sauce was inspired by the ingredients that American cook M.F.K. Fisher used while living in Dijon, France. This recipe won food52’s contest for Your Best Picnic Dish.
By AntoniaJames on food52.com
1 pound (about 454 grams) of haricots verts, or American green beans
2 small organic Persian cucumbers (I used small Lebanese cucumbers; English cucumbers, peeled, can also be used)
Kosher salt for sprinkling over cucumbers
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar (I also tried it with sherry vinegar and it works)
Yolk of one hard boiled egg
1 tsp honey, warmed, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, or more to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 medium cloves of roasted garlic
1/2 teaspoon anise seed, crushed
Pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
12-14 cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh curly parsley
1. In a very small dish, combine the shallot and vinegar.
2. Finely dice the cucumbers (leaving the peels on, if they are organic). Put them in the bowl in which you plan to make the salad. Sprinkle with salt and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, mash the yolk of the hard boiled egg with the back of a small fork, then add the honey, the lemon zest, the lemon juice, and the mustard. Beat well to combine, and to get out whatever lumps of egg yolk you can, without too much difficulty.
4. In a heavy mortar, crush the anise seed with the roasted garlic and a pinch of salt and grind to a smooth paste. Add to the egg yolk and lemon mixture; add the olive oil and whisk to combine.
5. Trim the beans, then steam or blanche them to the degree of tenderness you like best. Plunge them into a basin of ice water when they’re done, to prevent further cooking.
6. Drain and shake off any excess water. Drain from the bowl with the cucumbers the water that has accumulated there. Add the cherry tomatoes and the beans.
7. Drain the vinegar from the shallots into the bowl with the other dressing ingredients. Mix the dressing well and add to the salad, along with the shallots.
8. Gently toss. Test for salt and add more, if necessary. Add freshly ground black or white pepper, to taste. Sprinkle on the parsley. Enjoy!
Instructions for Packing for a Picnic:
If taking this on a picnic, or making it ahead for a potluck, block party, etc., remember that the acids in the dressing and the cherry tomatoes will discolor the green beans if added too far in advance. So, instead of adding the tomatoes with the cucumbers and beans, and then tossing with the dressing, drop the cut tomatoes in a medium sized jar with the dressing. Put the shallots and vinegar in that jar too, instead of on the salad. So, in essence, you’ll combine the cucumbers and the string beans in one container, and just before you’re ready to serve, toss with the dressing, cherry tomatoes and shallots. The juices from the tomatoes, by the way, once combined with the other dressing ingredients, will make it really tasty.