Monthly Archives: August 2011

A Pound of Green Beans and a Handful of Shallots

As far as I’m concerned, moving to a new place is a chance to invade a series of new markets. So far, I’ve checked out a large regular type supermarket (better than expected), two co-op style hybrid type markets (pretty good), one actual co-op in a small Rocky Mountain hippie town (lovely but predictably expensive), one branch of Whole Foods (very disappointing, miserable looking veggies, at the height of summer!), and a terrific Asian market hidden in a strip mall, where the Internet reviews said the owner was ‘rude’ and the products ‘scary’ (my kind of authentic Chinese market!).

Of course the high point of these market forays is always the local farmers’ market. I haven’t made it to the one in Boulder yet, being too terrified of the traffic of newly arrived students and their attendant families driving massive SUVs (or as one of the deans delicately expressed it: “Black Hawk Down parents on the rampage”). I’m thinking I should wait till all that cools down.

So instead we went to the nearby town of Louisville, VERY Norman Rockwell, if Norman Rockwell enjoyed iced green tea lattes, lovely place, lovely market. I especially liked the heap of what I thought was a bunch of tossed out beet greens, but which proved to be the beets themselves.

“How much for the beets?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Grab a bunch and we’ll call it two dollars.”

After I’d grabbed a bunch,

“You call that a bunch? Go back and get some more, for God’s sake!”

Excellent salesmanship in my opinion.

Then there was the stand that had heaps and heaps of green beans, including those purple ones that turn green when you cook them, alas, but which are such a pleasure to look at when you’re preparing dinner (and that’s important too, don’t let us forget). I got a pound of half and half, and then I saw they had a small pile of shallots besides, and I can’t really enjoy my green beans to the max without shallots, so they went in the bag too, along with mutual expressions of esteem for how well shallots go with green beans.

So here I am with the green beans and the shallots and a bunch of other stuff I’ve foraged from all the other markets, and I’m overwhelmed by choice.

What to do? There are so many things I CAN do, even in the ninety degree/we don’t want to eat anything but vegetables and maybe some anchovies weather.

All of them, though, start with the same step:

Top the green beans. Boil a BIG pot of water (green beans need a lot of water to bounce around in, no lid, that keeps them green for some reason, as long as you don’t overcook…), salt it, add the beans, cook till they still have a little crunch, then drain and rinse in cold water. Drain well.

Now they’re ready for all sorts of possible treatments.

If the weather was a little cooler, I might toss them and minced shallots with butter over medium heat, and sprinkle them with chopped chervil or parsley or dill.

I might mix them with a little bechamel sauce, sprinkle with grated Swiss cheese and sliced almonds, and heat under the broiler till they have a nice little crust on top.

Or I might stir fry them fast with some chopped fermented black beans and ginger and garlic and have them wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla spread with hoisin sauce.

But it’s too hot for that. So it’s green bean salad we’re talking about. Which offers an even wider selection, even when I start with those shallots, and even though, since this is a new kitchen for me, I only have one kind of vinegar–red–in residence:

Just to narrow it down a little, for all of these salads, I’ll mortar and pestle a clove of garlic with some salt and pepper, add a spoon of vinegar, and a sliced shallot or two, letting the shallot sit and sweeten for about fifteen minutes or so before I add three spoons of olive oil.

Then, it’s what do we feel like eating?

Toss the dressing, and the beans, with:

for veggies

Diced tomatoes?
Diced cucumber?
Diced avocado?

for protein

Hardboiled eggs?

for extra oomph

Chopped parsley?
Chopped green or red onion?

for a little carbo punch

Diced toasted croutons?
Diced baked/steamed/boiled potatoes?
Cooked pasta?


Then came dinner time. At that point, the algorithm by which I decide what goes into the meal had kind of stabilized. It’s always an equation of what I really feel like eating plus what I think the Beloved Husband feels like eating, divided by what we have on hand plus what time I have, plus how much time I feel like putting into the thing.

So this is what we ended up having for dinner: Green Bean and Potato Salad with Anchoiade/Basil/and Cherry Tomatoes.

Like so:

Put a big pot of water on to boil.

Dice as many potatoes as you are going to want to eat. I diced four large ones, since I wanted enough left for lunch. Steam them over or boil them in the water till just fork tender.

Meanwhile, make the anchoiade, which is just, really, a strong garlic vinaigrette with a can of anchovies, and maybe some capers, mashed into it. As usual, you don’t have to be too fussy about this (except for the fuss about what you like to eat, of course). In fact, I forgot all about the anchovies till after I’d made the vinaigrette (mashed garlic clove, pepper, salt, red wine vinegar and olive oil in a 1 to 3 ratio), so I just mashed them up with some more olive oil and a thread of vinegar, along with a bunch of capers and a little of their vinegar. I added that to the original dressing.

Mince a shallot or two and leave in the dressing in a big bowl while the potatoes cook.

Top a pound of green beans.

When the potatoes are done, dump them on top of the dressing, SAVING THE WATER IN THE POT. Sprinkle them with some white wine, or some lemon juice, or (since I had some open, hah!) some rose wine.

Put the beans into the water you cooked the potatoes in. Boil briskly for as long as it takes for them to be still crisp, but cooked to your liking. Drain them, sloosh them with cold water to set them and stop the cooking, drain well again.

At this point, I also added a handful of cherry tomatoes to the draining beans, rinsed them, and let them drain with the beans.

(You don’t want much added water in this salad, or any salad, come to think of it, it kills the dressing.)

When the beans and tomatoes are dried off, add them to the potatoes, and toss the whole thing. Have a taste, have a look. Is there enough dressing? If not, you can just add a little more oil, maybe squeeze on some lemon if you have it.

If you have some parsley, chop it up. I did. And I had a big basil plant, so I grabbed some leaves and tore them in, too.

Served it with some boiled corn. And a couple of glasses of rose.

And the Beloved Husband gave that sigh of sheer happiness that you like to hear if you’ve cooked the dinner on a Sunday night, and he’s going off to the second week of a completely new job the next day, and you’re hoping you’ve done enough to be a Good Wife and make sure he’s well fed while he does it too.

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