Adding to my infinite list of gastronomical oddities–I consider meat a side dish, cilantro tastes like dirt to me, I don’t drink tea and the only seafood I can stand is mussels–Alex and I finally ate at Mario Batali’s heroical West Village gastropub, The Spotted Pig, two weekends ago and all I’ve been able to talk about since were the salads.
With house-cured bresaola, prosciutto and various homemade sausages on the menu, it’s not named after swine for nothing. And while these are not to be overlooked, the salads were something of a symphony. I’ve said before that I don’t go to fuss-worthy restaurants because I fancy myself some sort of in-the-know foodie; I go for inspiration. Restaurants that don’t give me any new ideas for the Smitten Kitchen rarely get revisits.
In this case, it the muse turned out to be something as humble as lemon juice. Each of the salads we tried were topped with a healthy glug of lemon juice, and, seriously, I use lemon juice when I cook all the time but I don’t think I have ever finished a dish with it. I just love an everyday culinary revelation. Its sour splash on top of the roasted carrots with avocado and cumin salad shifted something winter-y to summery, and on top of the mixed bean salad… well this I had to make at home ASAP.
Of course, ASAP was actually “two weeks later” meaning that I couldn’t quite remember which three beans the restaurant used in the special, or whether it had any herbs or onion in it. No matter, though, because this is the way that I will make it from this day forward. I know that a mixed string bean salad can sound like Dull City, but this is anything but. It’s a bit spicy, sour-edged and incredibly fresh, I officially have a dish I am craving more than the Quick Zucchini Saute. Good riddance!
One year ago: Ina Garten’s Barbecue Sauce
Mixed Bean Salad (with Tomato and Lemon)
Inspired by The Spotted Pig
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 pound yellow wax beans, ends trimmed and beans halved crosswise
1/2 pound haricot vert, or slim green beans, ends trimmed and beans halved crosswise
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Glug of white wine
Salt and pepper
Juice of one lemon
Bring a medium-large pot of salted water to boil. Carefully lower the two tomatoes in with a slotted spoon and cook for one minute. Leave the water boiling while you drop them into a bath of ice water, peel them and then set them aside.
Meanwhile, lower the wax beans in the water for 2 to 3 minutes, until lightly cooked but still firm. Remove them from the boiling water with a large slotted spoon or tongs and plunge them in the ice bath to stop cooking them. Drain them in a colander and then spread them out on a kitchen towel to dry.
Repeat this process with the haricot vert, but only cook them for one minute.
If you, like me, are in a tiny kitchen and love nothing more than a one pot dish, dump the water out of the pot, dry it, and heat the olive oil to medium-high. If you love doing dishes, you can complete this step in a large saute pan. Yeah, I thought so.
Once the oil is heated, add the minced garlic and stir it around with a wooden spoon until lightly cooked but not brown, one minute or so. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes, and then the two peeled tomatoes that you have set aside. Break them up into chunks with your spoon, and simmer this into sauciness for about 5 minutes. Add a glug of white wine, and simmer for one more minute.
Dump the drained and dried beans into the tomato sauce, and mix it around until combined and heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. Put the salad in a serving bowl and squeeze the lemon juice all over it, tossing it lightly.