Red and green through the eyes of Caravaggio.
Recipe: String Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Savory, and Toasted Walnuts
During Christmas season I inevitably find myself making a lot of red and green foods. As farty as that sounds, I can’t help it. I like to color-coordinate dishes. I’ve made all-yellow meals in summer, and all-green ones in spring. It’s a way I organize my culinary thoughts, a path that’s not solely about flavor but just as much about physical beauty.
Christmas especially motivates me to cook in colors. I’ll throw pomegranate seeds and pistachios on roast pork, or finish a beet salad with a spoonful of mint pesto. This urge makes me feel a little like Miss Semi-Homemade with her color-coordinated cocktails, headbands, and napkin rings. I used to think she was crazy, but I don’t believe so anymore. She’s just hyper-orderly in an extremely dopey way. I understand. You want to create something that pleases you and lets you relax into your accomplishment.
So here’s a red and green string bean salad that may help you ease into Christmas. It’s delicious with roast duck or goose.
String Bean Salad with Tomatoes, Savory, and Toasted Walnuts
1 pound string beans, the ends trimmed
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1 scallion, very thinly sliced, using some of the tender green part
A large handful of very fresh walnut halves, lightly toasted
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
A 1/4-inch-thick round slice of pancetta, cut into small cubes
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
2 whole allspice, ground to a powder
A few sprigs of winter savory, the leaves chopped
1 tablespoon Spanish sherry vinegar
Put up a medium-size pot of water and bring it to a boil. Drop in the string beans, and blanch for two minutes. Pour them into a strainer, and run cold water over them to bring up their green color. Let them drain well.
Place the string beans, the tomatoes, the scallion, and the walnuts in a pretty serving bowl (something more wide than deep). Season with salt and black pepper.
Put a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, and let it get warm. Add the pancetta, and sauté until it has rendered most of its fat and is nice and crisp. Add the garlic, the allspice, and the savory, and sauté a minute, just to release their flavors. Turn off the heat, and add the vinegar, letting it bubble for a few seconds in the skillet’s heat. Pour it all over the string beans, and toss well. Check for seasoning, adding more salt or black pepper, if needed. Let it sit about 1/2 hour before serving.