This week’s CSA box presented us with a gorgeous bunch of green beans – one of my favorite, simple veggies. I went straight to work searching for a recipe that included lemon. Our lemon tree is not only in hyper-warp-speed production mode this time of year – busily littering our lawn with fragrant yellow bombs faster than I can scoop them up – but I have a recollection of some terrific green bean/lemon dish my sister-in-law served one holiday. Sure, it would be easy enough to just give her a call and ask for the recipe, but I am always happy for an excuse to bury my face in one of my many cookbooks..
The spine of Susie Middleton’s Fast, Fresh & Green (Chronicle Books 2010) catches my eye. Green beans are green. This book has “green” in the title. Let’s take a look – maybe it’s a SIGN! And lo and behold – there it was … Provençal Green Beans with Lemon-Pepper Oil and Herbed Sea Salt. Love at first glance. So maybe it wasn’t the most scientific approach to finding a recipe, but when you get results, does it really matter how it happened? Don’t answer that..
PROVENÇAL GREEN BEANS with LEMON-PEPPER OIL and HERBED SEA SALT
- 2 TSP KOSHER SALT
- 1 LB/455 G GREEN BEANS, stem ends trimmed
- 2 TBSP QUICK-INFUSED LEMON-PEPPER OIL (recipe follows) or best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ to 1 TSP PROVENÇAL HERB SALT (recipe follows) or coarse sea salt, preferably fleur de sel
Fill a large saucepan half full with water, add the salt, and bring to a boil. Arrange a few layers of dish towels on a work surface to drain the beans. Add the beans to the boiling water and begin timing immediately. Boil until the beans are tender to the bite but still green, 5 to 8 minutes. (Begin tasting after 4 minutes; the cooking time will vary, depending on the age of the beans and how quickly your stove top returns water to a boil.) Don’t undercook, as toothy green beans are not the goal here. Drain the beans, or use tongs to lift them out of the water, and spread them out on the towels to let excess moisture drain and evaporate, about 5 minutes.
Transfer the beans to a shallow serving dish and drizzle most of the oil over them. Sprinkle with some of the herb salt. Toss gently and add more oil to coat well and more herb salt. Taste a bean and add still more salt if you like (be generous!). Serve warm.
QUICK-INFUSED LEMON-PEPPER OIL
- 2 TBSP EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
- 1 TBSP PACKED GRATED LEMON ZEST
- 8 COARSE GRINDS BLACK PEPPER
Pour the olive oil into a small bowl and add the lemon zest and pepper. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes before using.
Yields 2 tablespoons
PROVENÇAL HERB SALT
- 1/4 TSP CHOPPED FRESH LAVENDER BUDS OR ROSEMARY LEAVES
- ½ TSP SEA SALT
In a small bowl, combine the lavender with the salt and mix well with your fingers. Let sit for a few minutes before using.
Yields ¾ teaspoon
Once these were made, I was so antsy to try them I declared the dish an appie, thus giving us license to eat them immediately. Oh. My. Thank you Susie Middleton – THANK YOU!! I wish I could hand you an award for creating an extraordinarily simple recipe that elevates the quintessential fresh green bean to an elegant new level. (And a heaping tablespoon of gratitude for graciously granting us permission to reprint your recipes!)
We went the rosemary – versus lavender – route for the herbed salt. I bet the lavender would be interesting, and – as there is no question I will be making this again – I will have to give that alternative a try; it’s fun to have creative options.
The final test? The Kev-O-Meter. He gives it a 4 out of 5. I am a solid 5 of 5. Even the French judge gives it a 5.0 (take that Kev!).
Want more? Check out Susie’s site AND her new book of vegetable main dishes, The Fresh and Green Table (Chronicle Books, 2012). A word of caution: Susie’s website, as my mom declared after exploring it, is “quite addictive”; be prepared to stay for a while!