The following recipe is from the November 4 edition of our weekly recipe newsletter. To receive this newsletter in your inbox, sign up here!
The recipes in New Classic Family Dinners by Mark Peel are, at their heart, restaurant recipes adapted for the ease of home cooks. They range in difficulty levels from beginner to very advanced. But even the most simple recipe includes a few extra steps that prove to be infinitely beneficial to home cooks.
This recipe for Green Bean Salad with Walnuts is nothing more than blanched green beans with a lemony vinaigrette, but hidden in the instructions are a few tips that only someone with years of kitchen experience can bring to the table. Peel recommends that you blanch the lemon zest to counter any bitterness that it might bring to the vinaigrette. Freshly shelled walnuts taste pretty good on their own, but toasting them and adding the smallest amount of walnut oil brings out their nuttiness. Finally, and probably my newest and most favorite trick that I've learned from Peel, briefly soaking raw onions does wonders to eliminate any overly pungent onion aromas in dishes that call for raw onions.
Combining all of these chef-worthy techniques makes for a green bean salad that might take a little longer than you are used to, but is well worth it. These few extra steps ensure that all of the flavors are not only balanced but heightened to new levels.
- 1 pound green beans
- 12 walnuts in the shells
- 2 teaspoons coarse mustard
- 1/4 cup Basic Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 1 tablespoon walnut oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- Fleur de sel
- Zest of 1/2 large lemon
- 1 small or 1/2 medium shallot, minced, rinsed with cold water, and drained on paper towels
- 2 tablespoons strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pick over the beans, but don't trim them until after they've been blanched. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil and add the beans. Boil for 4 to 5 minutes and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Cool in the ice water, then drain and dry on paper towels. Trim off the stem ends.
Crack the walnuts, holding the seamed sides against the nutcracker. Remove the meat from the shells, trying to keep the halves intact. If you crack the shell on the rounded side (as opposed to the seamed side), you might crush the meat and won't be able to extract neat halves. Toast the nuts lightly in a 350°F
oven, or in a pan on the stove, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Separate out 6 halves and set aside. Coarsely chop the rest.
Whisk the mustard into the lemon vinaigrette. Set aside 1 teaspoon of the dressing. Make sure the beans are dry, and toss with the remaining vinaigrette and chopped walnuts. Toss the halves with the teaspoon you set aside. Arrange the beans on a platter or in a wide bowl. Arrange the walnut halves over the top. Drizzle on the walnut oil and sprinkle with the chives. Sprinkle a few pinches of fleur de sel over the top and serve.
Note: The reason you don't trim the beans until after you blanch them is that, like cut flowers, they will absorb water at the broken or cut ends. They'll have a better texture and a more vivid flavor if left intact until after they've been cooked.
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
1 small or 1/2 medium shallot, minced, rinsed with cold water, and drained on paper towels
2 tablespoons strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Bring a small pan of water to a boil and add the lemon zest. Blanch for 45 seconds, drain, and dry on paper towels. Chop fine and transfer to a medium bowl, along with the shallot. (Blanching reduces the bitterness in the lemon zest, which is important here, but not in other recipes.)
Pour the lemon juice over the shallot and lemon peel. Add the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir together. Whisk in the canola oil and the olive oil. Taste by dipping a piece of lettuce into the dressing, and adjust the seasoning.