Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Love at First Bite

I'm in love! Well, OK, I'm definitely in serious like and have fallen hard. I've made this salad at least three times in the past week. It was inspired by a salad I had recently at a restaurant in San Francisco. It was actually a tiny green bean side salad (almost an elevated garnish) served with some tapas, but to me the salad stole the show. It had some unique combinations (tomatoes and hazelnuts) that I don't normally think to use, but the chef also left the beans slightly less than al dente, making me wince thinking of all the sad, soggy beans that were being eaten around the world at that very moment. I swooned over the freshness and lovely crunchiness. It was like a mouthful of summer in each bite. 

Soon after I declared my love of said green bean salad, I was thrilled to find a recipe for a similar version (also inspired by a restaurant meal in San Francisco) here, a great website for vegetarian dishes. I added my own twists based upon the ingredients I had on hand and found it delightful, so much so that I feel like I've become a green bean stalker. 

Now that Labor Day has passed us and summer is waning, I think it's the perfect addition to any meal to keep that summertime spirit burning as long as possible. Just don't wait too long, as these ingredients won't be around much longer. Oh the fickleness of love. 

Summer Green Bean Salad
Adapted from 101cookbooks.com

3/4 lb green beans, trimmed 
1 tsp finely chopped green onions
1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp minced shallots
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp honey (optional)
3 cups frisee, torn
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Fresh corn cut from 1 small ear
1/2 hazelnuts, smashed and toasted
1/2 cup feta cheese

To make the dressing, whisk together green onions, thyme, shallots, lemon juice, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Add the olive oil by whisking with a fork until all ingredients combine. Taste and adjust for more seasoning if needed. If there it's too tart, add a tiny bit of honey to take the puckery edge off. 
Cut green beans on the diagonal in 1-inch bits. Place in a microwave safe dish with 1 Tbsp water and cover with saran wrap. Steam for 90 seconds or until just slightly less than al dente. (If you prefer, you can also cook the beans in salted, boiling water for about 2 minutes). Quickly drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. 
In a large bowl toss the green beans, corn, half of the hazelnuts and frisee with a big splash of the dressing. Toss well and add more dressing, salt and/or pepper as needed. Add the tomatoes and feta cheese. Turn onto a platter or plate individually and top with remaining hazelnuts. 

Note: I've made this several times with a combination of wax beans and haricot verts. I think any mix of beans would be delicious. You can also use chives instead of green onions and dried thyme instead of fresh if that is all you have on hand but it's not as bright or tasty (but still good). If you can't find frisee, I've used escarole lettuce, but Romaine hearts would also be a workable alternative. The cream imparts a richness not a heaviness to the dressing so don't skip it. I also think an avocado would be a delicious addition. 

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