As soon as the weather gets sweeter outside, I lose all interest in make any elaborate effort in the kitchen. It’s not that I don’t want to make dinner; a girl cannot live on tapas and cocktails at sidewalk restaurants alone, though lord knows I have tried. In the end, I just don’t want to fuss, and with all of the bright, seasonal produce slowly trickling into the markets, there’s no reason to. That’s the real secret of super-fresh food: you don’t need to do a lot to it to make it grand.
I can’t recommend Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Vegetables enough to help you along your way. I mentioned it last month in conjunction with the Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts and Feta, but I wasn’t even close to done with it. The preparations are for the most part quite simple, yet every single recipe I’ve tried has embodied a little something-something that I hadn’t done before. I keep it tucked in my desk drawer at work, and feel confident that on that magical day I get to the Greenmarket during lunch, I can get back to the office, look up whatever I grabbed, and be able to cobble together a great dish that is no great time burden, just from the vegetable and some pantry staples.
Of course, this hasn’t happened yet. And, I’m really jumping the gun on both the string beans and the cherry tomatoes here, but they actually looked fantastic at the Gristedes this week and I decided to run with it. I’m glad I did. It allowed me to use the remaining hours of daylight as I wished, taking the long way home, soaking up every speck of sun while it is still mild and the humidity low. I didn’t have to choose between having a simple, healthful dinner and enjoying the weather. Heck, nobody should have to.
One year ago: Barley and Corn Salad with Haricot Vert (I’m always amused to find that the same things were on my mind–green beans–on the same day the year before!)
Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables
1 pound green beans, though if you can find a mix of green and yellow beans, it will be all the prettier
1 pound cherry tomatoes
1 large shallot
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Basil or other herb (optional)
Prepare the vegetables: Top and tail the beans and cut them into large segments. Parboil the beans in salted water until just tender, about four to five minutes. Drain and immediately spread them out to cool. Stem the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half.
Make the vinaigrette: Peel and mince the shallot and put it in a bowl with the vinegar and salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust the balance with more vinegar, oil, or salt, as needed. Toss the cherry tomatoes in with the vinaigrette; this can sit for a while. Do not add the green beans until just before serving or they will discolor from the acid in the vinaigrette. For variety, the salad can be garnished with basil or some other fresh herb such as parsley, chervil or hyssop.
Do ahead: Beans and vegetables can be prepared ahead of time. Simply toss with the dressing only at the last minute, as it can discolor the green beans after several hours.