PANMASS CHALLENGE WEEKEND: On Saturday and Sunday Jody and the other members of Team Rialto-Trade will make their fifth ride in the annual PanMass Challenge, raising money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. This year’s route, divided over two days, runs 192 miles from Sturbridge, in western Massachusetts, to Provincetown, on the tip of Cape Cod. Cancer connects all of us. This year will bring the team’s aggregate total to almost $500,000. Please help Team Rialto-TRADE strike a blow for cancer research. You can make a donation here. Thank you.
This recipe is so simple I had trouble envisioning exactly what I was going to photograph, which was fine, because given the temperatures of the last couple of weeks, who wants to spend a lot of time in the kitchen? Seared Haricots Verts with Whipped Feta and Preserved Lemon will have you in and out in no time and then you can devote yourself to doing what everyone does in hot weather – using the grill while quaffing enormous quantities of beer. Or, you can simply do what Jody and I did: sit down, pour yourself a glass of dry rosé, add some sliced tomatoes and crusty bread and call it lunch.
I know that there are readers who go all woogly over the taste of naked fresh haricots verts. Pas moi. In my palate, green beans need a partner for their brilliance to shine. But that’s precisely what makes them so appealing – just about any partner will do. Green beans will go with just about anything you already have in your fridge. They’re culinarily polyamorous. They love to be matched with a sharp and salty companion, or sharp and pickled. You can dress them with just a bit of evoo and vinegar, or a few shavings of Pecorino. We’re eating them with whipped feta this week because I tasted a slightly different but delicious version of this in one of Jody’s restaurants and it made me sit up and go, God, that’s good! I don’t know why I sounded so surprised. Green beans win on versatility.
For the record, while all haricots verts are green beans, not all green beans are haricots verts. American green beans, also called “string beans” and “snap beans,” originated in American; haricots verts come from France. String beans are burly; haricots verts are skinny. Snap beans harvested very young will resemble haricot verts, but the resemblance is only skin deep. They taste like poor snap beans, not haricots verts. The latter show their peak flavor while young; if allowed to grow to the size of a snap bean, they become tough. For the purposes of this recipe you can substitute good old American snap beans, if need be. The dish won’t have quite the same elegance, but the American beans are just as open-minded when it comes to partners.
So, eat your haricots verts… with whipped feta and preserved lemon, or just about anything at all. Enjoy. Ken
Seared Haricots Verts with Whipped Feta and Preserved Lemon
- ½ pound feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup whole milk Greek yogurt
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 hot green chili, seeded and minced, about 1½ teaspoons, or to taste depending on how hot the pepper is and how much heat you like.
- ½ teaspoon dried Greek oregano
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1½ pounds haricots verts, stem ends trimmed
- ¼ teaspoon sumac
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- Put the feta in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to crumble. Add the yogurt, 3 tablespoons olive oil, chili, oregano, garlic and lemon juice and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may not have to add any salt since the feta is salted. This benefits from sitting for a day to allow the flavors to meld.
- Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Rinse the beans with water so they have some water clinging to them. Add the vegetable oil and then the beans and season with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 4 minutes. This allows them to steam a little as well as sear. Remove the lid and toss the beans. Cover again and cook until the beans are completely tender, about 3 minutes longer.
- While the beans are cooking, smear the whipped feta over the bottom of a platter or divide it among individual plates.
- Toss the beans with the remaining olive oil, sumac and sesame seeds to coat evenly. Arrange the beans on top of the whipped feta. Sprinkle with preserved lemon and serve. The dish may also be eaten at room temperature, or even slightly chilled, which makes it an interesting picnic option.
This recipe was inspired by a dish (okay, I stole it) from Cory Seeker, Chef de Cuisine at my restaurant TRADE. He uses nigella seeds in his feta mix, which wasn’t an option for me since I didn’t have any, but you might want to tuck it into your mind as an interesting option to try some time.
The feta and preserved lemon contribute big acidic and salty flavors to the finished dish, so add less salt to the beans themselves than you ordinarily would – the other stuff will make up for it later.
Adding rinsed vegetables to a pan with a bit of oil, then covering the pan so things sear and steam is a great technique for a lot of summer produce. It works with broccoli, summer squashes, onions, eggplant and peppers.