When haricots verts, those pencil-thin green beans, make their appearance in farmers markets, I get about as excited as when I see sour cherries. Something has to happen, and fast. They're so delicate that they start to go limp after even just a couple of days in the fridge, and then what's the point? I might as well use regular old green beans.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. But what's special about haricots verts is that very delicate nature, a quality that Clotilde Dusoulier in "The French Market Cookbook" (Clarkson Potter, 2013) refers to as their "youthful bounce."
Dusoulier, you may know, is the wildly popular blogger behind Chocolate and Zucchini, and with her charming new book she is showcasing, as the subtitle puts it, "Vegetarian Recipes From My Parisian Kitchen." She's a flexitarian these days, but with the cookbook she wants to show readers how to coax flavor out of the best locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables without relying on meats (mock or otherwise) or heavy amounts of cheese or even too many carbs.
That's the way I'm trying to cook, too, so as I flipped through Dusoulier's charming book, a recipe for a green bean, red rice and almond salad demanded to be made. It happens to be vegan, but in keeping with Dusoulier's understated delivery it's not labeled as such.
Nonetheless, it was a clear choice, because I had every ingredient on hand and didn't need to hit any market, French or otherwise. Dusoulier starts with leftover cooked rice, but the Bhutanese variety I had in my pantry takes just 20 minutes, so I didn't feel behind in the slightest.
In about the time I steamed the beans and made the dressing, it was ready for assembly — and my dinner companion and I were ready to eat.
This salad combines chewy, slightly nutty red rice with crisp green beans (preferably thin haricots verts) in a dressing made creamy by almond butter. It can be eaten hot, cold or in between.
MAKE AHEAD: The red rice can be cooked and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. The green beans can be cooked and refrigerated a day in advance. The salad without the almonds, parsley and pepper can be assembled and refrigerated a few hours in advance. Adapted from "The French Market Cookbook," by Clotilde Dusoulier (Clarkson Potter, 2013).
GREEN BEAN, RED RICE AND ALMOND SALAD
1 cup uncooked red rice (may substitute brown rice)
1 1/4 cups water
2 pounds haricot verts or thin green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons all-natural unsweetened almond butter
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2/3 cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (see NOTE)
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
Combine the red rice and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat until the liquid is barely bubbling, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the rice rest, covered, for 5 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork. Depending on whether your salad will be served warm or cold, partially cover the rice to keep it warm; let the rice come to room temperature; or cool, then refrigerate.
Meanwhile, set up a steamer over a separate saucepan of water on medium heat. Steam the green beans, tightly covered, until just cooked through but not limp, 7 to 8 minutes. Cool if desired.
Whisk together the almond butter, oil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt in a large salad bowl.
Add the cooked beans, turning them gently in the dressing to coat. Stir in the rice. Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Add the chopped almonds and parsley, then season with pepper to taste; toss to incorporate.
Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.
NOTE: Toast the nuts in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking the skillet to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using.
NUTRITION Per serving: 360 calories, 10 g protein, 41 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium, 9 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar