Still life with tomatoes and green beans, by Ashley Baldwin-Smith.
Recipe: String Bean Salad with Shallots, Almonds, and Thyme
My previous post, a recipe for sautéed shrimp with Sambuca, included a photo of a whole dinner spread. In the photo there was a string bean salad. It must have looked kind of intriguing, for a number of people asked me about it. So I decided to write up the recipe.
I have to admit I find string beans kind of boring, so I tend to doctor them. You’ll notice that the dressing here includes not only almonds, a classic with string beans, but also anchovies (I’ve been getting a lot of mileage out of my anchovies this summer), garlic, thyme, mustard, and lemon. Now, that might sound like overkill, and possibly to some cooks it would be, but I feel I’ve added each ingredient in a tiny enough amount so that to my palate they all mingle well and don’t overwhelm the intrinsic boringness of the string bean itself. See what you think. String beans also marry extremely well with pork fat (what doesn’t?), so if you’re inclined, omit the anchovies, crisp up some tiny cubes of pancetta, and add that instead.
I’ve noticed that this year even Greenmarket string beans can be spongy and starchy. At my usually favorite farm stand, which will remain nameless, it seems that this year they’re picking them too late and maybe even a few days before they make the journey to the big bad city, where people like me just love to criticize produce that’s not perfect. But what the hell is the point of growing this stuff unless it’s going to taste great? I can buy starchy string beans at Associated supermarket for half the price. You want them to have that string bean snap, so make sure you snap one before you buy them. It also helps to look for the little, thinner ones. I’m partial to the really dark green kind (as opposed to the light green ones), just because I like their color (they’re green with a touch of black). The yellow ones are really pretty, too.
String Bean Salad with Shallots, Almonds, and Thyme
(Serves 4 as a side dish)
1 pound string beans, trimmed
1 red shallot, very thinly sliced
⅓ cup almond slivers, lightly toasted
About 5 large thyme sprigs, the leaves only
For the dressing:
1 summer garlic clove, very thinly sliced
3 anchovy fillets, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
The juice from ½ lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Put up a big pot of water, and bring it to a boil. Drop in the string beans, and blanch them for 2 minutes. Scoop them from the pot with a big strainer into a colander, and run cold water over them to set their color (or put them in an ice bath). Drain them well, and put them in a nice looking serving bowl. Add the shallot, the toasted almonds, and the thyme leaves.
In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing, and pour it over the string beans. Toss gently, and taste for seasoning. Serve right away.