Green Beans (Haricots Verts)

February 19, 2009

Supposing everyone lived at one time what would they say. They would observe that stringing string beans is universal.
~Gertrude Stein

A mistreated garden icon…too often served in a mudane, overcooked fashion.

Haricots verts are the longer and thinner French variety…a touch more delicate and possessing a slightly more complex flavor. The cooking time on green beans varies according to pod girth, so sample during the process to assure they are perfectly crisp and tender when served.

GREEN BEANS WITH SHIITAKES

6 T unsalted butter
1 t fresh thyme, chopped
8 ozs fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, caps sliced

2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
2 lbs fresh green beans, washed and ends trimmed
2/3 C chicken broth
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add shiitake mushrooms and thyme; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to bowl.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in same skillet. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Add green beans and toss to coat with butter. Pour broth over green bean mixture. Simmer until liquid evaporates and green beans are crisp and tender, about 10 minutes. Gently stir in shiitake mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

GREEN BEANS WITH PINE NUTS & TARRAGON

1 lb green beans, washed and ends trimmed
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed

2 T fresh tarragon, finely chopped
1/2 C toasted pine nuts

Sea salt and pepper to taste

Put green beans in large pot of boiling salted water. and cook until just tender and crisp, 3-5 minutes. Drain beans in colander and plunge into ice cold water to halt cooking and retain the green hue. Promptly drain on cloth or paper towel—otherwise, the beans will become soggy. Set aside.

Heat olive oil and butter in large skillet. Add garlic and sauté until just lightly browned, then discard the clove. Add beans, tarragon and pine nuts; sauté until heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

GREEN BEANS WITH WALNUTS

1 pound green beans, washed and ends trimmed
3 T walnut oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/3 C roasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Drop green beans in a heavy pot of boiling, salted water. Cook uncovered for about 3-5 minutes; drain thoroughly, then drizzle with walnut oil, season with salt and pepper to taste and toss with chopped nuts. Serve immediately.

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This is a culinary ode to St. Barts—that emerald, beach fringed French isle in the Caribbean with its luxurious villas, sophisticated bistros, stunning vistas, harrowing runway, and oil coated nude bodies. Here, you bide the time reclined, barefooted, scantily clad, discussing dinner during a lunch overlooking the azure sea framed by a cobalt sky with the always present puffy white clouds…with multilingual banter and the clink of wine glasses… did I forget to mention bathed in ocean breezes with your toes in the sand?

Anthony Bourdain is right on when he says food just tastes better in naked feet.

In a diplomatic master stroke with undoubtedly some collusin involved, France purchased St. Barthélemy from Sweden in 1878. Some Swedish influences remain, including the name of the its quaint capital port, Gustavia, and the blonde haired, blue eyed populus. But now, the island is part of the overseas département of Guadeloupe, and the French savoir faire exudes.

The goat cheese salad is pervasive at the local restaurants, with good cause. But, perhaps to satisfy that darker and wilder urge for offal, I admit to daily ordering the boudin noir and fabulous frites (blood sausage and fries).

Bon appetit chef Sonja Lee (formerly of St. Barts, now in Oslo)

GOAT CHEESE SALALD

2 C fresh baguette breadcrumbs
2 T fresh thyme, minced or 2 teaspoons, dried
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
8 sliced rounds of soft good quality fresh goat cheese
2 eggs, beaten

2+ T plus champagne vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 cup walnut oil
3 T walnut oil
8 C mixed baby greens or mesculun
2 heads Belgian endive, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large ripe pears, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

1/2 C chopped walnuts

Create two separate open dishes, one with breadcrumbs and the other with beaten eggs. Season goat cheese with salt, pepper and thyme. Dip cheese into beaten egg, then into breadcrumbs, coating completely.

Whisk vinegar and mustard in small bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in 1/2 cup oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine mixed greens, Belgian endive and pears in large bowl.

Heat 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add walnuts and sauté until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plate using slotted spoon. Reduce heat to medium. Working in batches, add coated cheese rounds to skillet and cook until crisp and brown on outside and soft on inside, about 2 minutes per side.

Toss salad with enough dressing to coat. Divide among 4 plates. Arrange 2 cheese rounds in center of each salad. Sprinkle with walnuts.

Basic Vinaigrette

February 3, 2009

Vinegar, the son of wine.
~Proverb

Like sandwiches, vinaigrettes always taste better if someone else makes them. So, have a friend or lover whisk up this simple version for you. For use on salads, cold roasted vegetables, even as a marinade for grilled chicken…you name it.

Some maintain that vinegar was discovered when wine was inadvertently left to sour. This resulting in the first batch of full bodied wine vinegar. The Talmud, a central text of mainstream Judaism, refers to a wicked son of a righteous father as a “vinegar son of wine.” The word vinegar is derived from the French word vinagere, which literally means sour wine.

Given the overt simplicity of the ingredients, good quality vinegars and olive oil are much preferred, even mandated.

BASIC VINAIGRETTE

2 T sherry vinegar
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T French Dijon mustard
Sea salt to taste

1-1 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Whisking gently, combine sherry and red wine vinegars, mustard and salt in a bowl. Whisking more vigorously, slowly add olive oil to create an emulsion. Taste for seasoning with a component of the food it will dress, such as a lettuce leaf or vegetable.

Pourboire: to vary, add or replace with any of the following: hazelnut oil, walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, citrus, smashed garlic, finely diced shallots, fresh chopped or whole herbs, whisked egg yolk, freshly ground pepper, white pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper…the possibilities are almost endless.

Store in a bottle or cruet in the refrigerator and shake or whisk at serving time.