THE END OF GREEN BEAN CRUELTY

I’m talking about THIN green beans, of course… ¬† ūüėČ

We learned about Michel Richard firsthand, at his wonderful, exciting restaurant Central in Washington DC.  What a delicious experience it was! The bread Рthat keeps coming to the table, always warm and impossible to say no to Рand the gougeres alone are worth stopping by.  In his book Happy in the Kitchen, Michel Richard comments  that  most recipes for green beans cook them in boiling water, then quickly shock them in an ice-bath. However, he adamantly opposes this method when dealing with pencil-thin green beans. They are so delicate, so why would anyone furiously boil and shock the poor things, leaving them limp and lifeless?

I’ve been guilty of such green bean cruelty more than once, but I won’t ever do it again. When prepared¬† by Michel’s guidelines, they are simply irresistible, even served without any embellishments. However, pairing these beauties with small roasted tomatoes didn’t hurt them a bit.

GREEN BEANS WITH ROASTED TOMATOES
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

for the green beans:
a bunch of pencil-thin green beans (amount enough for two)
1 Tbs olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp orange zest
salt and pepper to taste

for the tomatoes
1 cup of grape tomatoes, cut in half
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Start by roasting the tomatoes.  Spread them in a single layer on a small baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper for easy clean up. Drizzle some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, shake them around, and season with salt and pepper.  Place in a 400 F oven until they get soft and start to brown around the edges, 20 to 25 minutes. Reserve, keeping warm.

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet, add the red pepper flakes and the orange zest.¬† Keep in a gentle heat for a couple of minutes, until the mixture starts to get fragrant.¬† Increase the heat, add the green beans, and let them cook for a few minutes undisturbed, so that they get a little color where they make contact with the pan.¬† Stir them around to coat the beans with the flavored oil, and saute for a little while longer, until the beans are cooked through, but still al dente. Don’t overcook! Season with salt and pepper, add the roasted tomatoes on top, and mix gently.¬† Adjust seasoning, and serve right away.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Michel Richard’s main message is to cook thin green beans straight by sauteing in a small amount of fat.¬† You can substitute butter or a mixture of butter and olive oil, or use a different type of oil, keep in mind that some – like walnut oil –¬† burn at a lower temperature, so it’s best to add them close to the end of cooking.

The combination of green beans and orange zest, worked quite well in this recipe,¬† with the touch of balsamic vinegar brought by the tomatoes.¬† It was a nice side dish for our grilled flank steak, but if you want a fully vegetarian meal, add some pasta or couscous, a big salad and a thick slice of grilled bread.¬† It’s¬† more than enough for a tasty dinner.¬† Just remember, be kind to the green beans!¬† ūüėČ

ONE YEAR AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

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DOUBLE ASPARAGUS DELIGHT

Here’s a clever approach that Michel Richard published in his cookbook “Happy in the Kitchen” :¬† asparagus spears paired with an asparagus “vinaigrette.”¬†¬† If you love green vegetables, as I do, you will delight in this recipe.¬† It’s a model of simplicity because it involves so few ingredients, but you must pay attention to the details, and above all, avoid overcooking the spears.¬† I can’t imagine a better way to welcome Spring!

ASPARAGUS ON ASPARAGUS
(from Happy in the Kitchen)

24 large asparagus
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs fresh lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
pinch of  sugar
pinch of salt

Set aside 4 whole spears for the dressing. Cut off the tough bottom ends of all asparagus spears and set those aside for the as well. With a vegetable peeler, peel the remaining asparagus starting about one inch below the tip.

Have a bowl with ice cold water ready.  Steam the asparagus spears for 5 to 6 minutes only, until they are just tender when gently pierced with the tip of a knife.  knife. When the asparagus is cooked, lift the spears with a pair of tongs and plunge them in the ice bath to cool, then remove and dry on kitchen paper or a towel.

Make the asparagus sauce: cut the 4 reserved spears into 1-inch pieces. Place them in a small saucepan with the trimmed asparagus bottoms and add ¬ľ cup water and the olive oil. Bring it to a simmer, cover, and gently cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the asparagus is completely softened. The water should have evaporated, leaving the asparagus¬† stewing in only the oil.

Transfer the asparagus to a blender or food processor and puree it until completely smooth. Transfer the puree to a small bowl and whisk in the mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Serve the asparagus on a platter, with the vinaigrette in a small dish or ramekin on the side for dipping or dousing the spears.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:¬† Peeling the asparagus may seem like work, but don’t skip it.¬†¬† Use large asparagus for this dish, and the peeling will ensure a wonderful texture and even cooking.¬† I enjoyed them as a light lunch with homemade bread and a sunny-side egg, but the dish is also a perfect option as an appetizer at a dinner party.¬† The asparagus lovers among your guests will never forget it!

The sauce or dressing is an excellent adaptation for the tough ends of the spears, so consider making some whenever you cook asparagus.  I imagine that it will also complement other dishes, like grilled salmon, with a sprinkle of fresh dill on top.  Must try that soon.

The beginning of asparagus season always makes us happy!

ONE YEAR AGO:  Sundried Tomato and Feta Cheese Torte

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