Monday, July 29, 2013

A Long Standing Promise

 Summer in Vermont is the season of Farmer’s Markets and fresh local produce. Every day of the week most people in Vermont can purchase fresh local organic produce by traveling to a Farmer’s Market in their own, or a few miles down the road to a market in a nearby town.  Or, you can grow your own as we do.

It was a delightgul surprise to come home from work last week to find a half-bushel of yellow string beans on the porch, compliments of DH.  In spite of the lousy weather, a record 34 consecutive days of rain, DH has managed to keep the gardens growing. 

String Bean vinaigrette is a salad that's been in my culinary repertoire longer than I can remember, and it is one of Bella’s favorite summer dishes.  Every year she calls and asks to be reminded how this salad is made.  Every year I tell her I’ll blog the salad, and every year when I make it I forget to pull out my pad and camera to record the what and how’s of the recipe.  This year Bella purchased her beans (at the farmer's market near her home) before DH put the half-bushel on the porch.  Her annual inquiry was a reminder of my long-standing promise.  So, it is with great pleasure that I finally post this classic and delicious salad on my blog.  Enjoy!

Notes for this recipe:  This salad calls for “frenching” the beans—cutting the beans in half length-wise along the “string”.  This is an essential step, and cannot be eliminated without dramatically changing the texture and character of the dish.  Frenching with a knife is a labor-intensive process.  However, Pampered Chef makes a tool called a “Bean Slicer” that turns this task into a breeze.  This tool also includes a “tailer” neatly designed into the handle.  Click here for the link.  The beans must also be “tailed”, which is breaking off one or both ends.  For this dish, I break off only the stem end, the end that connected the bean to the plant.  Blanching the beans: Do not overcook the beans.  The success of the dish relies on the beans being blanched only until they are crisp tender.  This dish is best when made ahead allowing the flavors to meld for several hours or overnight. 

String Beans Vinaigrette
1 lb. green or yellow string beans
Kosher salt
½ c. olive oil
¼ cup white wine vinegar
½ small white onion, peeled, and finely chopped
2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained (optional)
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian parsley or other mildly flavored fresh herb,  finely chopped (optional)
1 clove garlic, peeled, and minced
½ c. shredded good quality Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Sea salt, freshly ground, to taste

Rinse and drain the beans.  Set a large colander in the sink.  Fill a large pot with water, place on the stove, and bring to a boil. 

While the water is heating, tail the beans, breaking off only the end that connected the bean to the plant.  Then, “French” the beans, cutting them length-wise down the “string” using a knife or a tool designed specifically for this task.  (See “Notes for this recipe” above.) 

When the water boils add the Kosher salt, and add the prepared string beans.  Cook the beans are crisp tender (3 to 5 minutes).  Pour the beans into the waiting colander and rinse immediately with cold water. 

While the beans are draining, whisk together the olive oil and white wine vinegar.  Set aside.  Transfer the drained beans to a bowl, add the chopped onion, capers and parsley (if using), the minced clove of garlic, and the oil and vinegar mixture.   

Toss lightly to coat the beans.  Add a good grind of both
white pepper and sea salt.  Transfer the beans to a storage container with a tight lid and place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. 

Just before serving toss in the Parmesan cheese and add white pepper and sea salt to taste.  In the unlikely event of leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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