Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Elegant French Green Bean Salad from the Périgueux Region


November has always been my favorite month in the fall. In the mountains, the leaves have changed, there’s a nip in the air, and it’s cool enough to build a fire in the fireplace. When we lived in the islands, in November the humid days seemed to all of a sudden disappeared and the heat of summer was magically gone and replaced with gentle cooling breezes. The same is true on the Gulf coast of south Florida. November also happens to be the month we were married and that alone is reason enough to love November don’t you think?

I find in the fall I crave what I call “transitional” foods, the kind of foods that bridge the gap between hardy cold weather foods such as braises and stews and light summer entrees. This elegant little French green bean salad is an excellent example of a perfect starter for an autumn dinner.

In southwestern France in autumn the walnuts of Périgord grow in the Dordogne and the Lot regions and during September their markets are full of fresh walnuts. In early October the bulk of the crop is gathered when they fall to the ground and are dried and made into walnut oil, one of the most distinctive flavors of the region.  This green bean salad is especially delicious paired with another local specialty of the region, foie gras.


If you can’t find French haricot vert as shown above, slender green beans will work. However, I don’t recommend pole beans. This is a French salad with foie gras, so we want it to look elegant, n’est-ce pas? Walnut oil is available in most supermarkets and specialty stores or substitute a good extra-virgin olive oil. Make sure to store any nut oils in the refrigerator after you open them because they turn rancid if left on a shelf in a warm cabinet just as any fresh nuts will do.

Salade de Périgueux or salade d’haricot vert
Adapted from “The Food of France” by Sarah Woodward

1 pound of French green beans (haricot vert), or any slender green beans, topped & tailed
Sea salt
2 tablespoons walnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
A small handful of freshly shelled walnuts, broken in half or crumbled in large pieces
2 ounces foie gras

Bring a saucepan of water to boil with plenty of salt and very gently boil the beans for about 6 minutes. They still should be green and fairly crisp. The exact time will depend on the size and freshness of the beans, so taste regularly.*

As soon as the beans are cooked to your satisfaction, drain them and dress immediately with the walnut oil, lemon juice, and freshly ground black pepper even if you are serving them later. When it’s time to assemble the salad, season with a tiny bit more sea salt, scatter the walnuts over the salad, and top with thin slivers of the foie gras.

*Cooks notes: Take care not to overcook the green beans. They should have a good bite with no discernible crunch and taste “cooked” but definitely not mushy. They can go from cooked to over-cooked very quickly, so it's important to stay close and taste, taste, taste as you go during the final few minutes.


I will be sharing this recipe with Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and On the Menu Monday at Stone Gable.

What I'm reading.


“Touching, thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisite in its observations, French Lessons—Ellen Sussman’s day in Paris with a wonderful collection of characters—is a treat. . . . Très charmant!”
—Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Four Ms. Bradwells

52 comments:

  1. I just got these ingredients at the market, so I will tray it! That book sounds like a good read to me...hope your taking in the cooler weather with ease Sam...

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  2. Refined tasting and so pretty!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. I'll never be able to look at green bean salad again if not accompanied by foie gras! How wonderful. The book recommendation sound lovely. Have you read, Lunch in Paris?

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  4. Dear Sam, I do like green beans. This recipe sounds easy and elegant, a perfect combination. Blessings, Catherine xo

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  5. A perfect salad to celebrate a favorite month! I can almost taste the silkiness of the foie gras with the slight crunch of the beans and nuts.

    Happy November anniversary!!

    Best,
    Bonnie

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  6. Elegant, indeed. A real treat. I understand your sentiment about November -- we all tend to associate favorite times of year with just our favorites!

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  7. Well, I can manage everything but the foie gras!

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  8. I Love your term; "transitional foods". What an novel way of serving foie gras that I love! Great post. Gros Merci.
    Rita

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  9. Did I see foie gras? Now that gets my attention; I would happily eat all the green beans in the world for a bite of this delicious French concoction especially if it is from the Périgord.

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  10. That looks special enough for a holiday meal! It inspired me to start a new board for holiday meal ideas on Pinterest.

    Lynn

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  11. Lovely first course, Sam. My kind of November dish.

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  12. Sam, this is a lovely post. Have I told you how much I enjoy coming to visit your blog? If not, I need too more often.

    November is my favorite month too ( also my wedding anniversary).

    Cheers to you.

    Velva

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  13. Very nice post Sam. This salad looks wonderful. I had foie gras for the first time a couple of months ago in a local French Restaurant. I thought it was out of this world delicious. This green been salad looks wonderful.

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  14. this really is an elegant dish. Love green beans and love that the ingredients are simple and delicious :)
    Mary x

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  15. This is so pretty - I want to print the photo and gaze at it all day - reminding myself of beauty and elegance in food. And how it translates to taking care with all things. Just a wee bit decadent (a whole lot with the foie gras) and so soothing. And the book - my daughter is a francophile - I will look for that for her birthday.

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  16. Sam I love this salad look delicious and perfect!!! xx gloria

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  17. Today seems a good day to be whisked off to France through a delicious salad Sam.

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  18. I might give this a go for Thanksgiving!...

    ...how's the book coming? :-)

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  19. Happy month of your anniversary:)

    The sald looks wonderful..the talk of France:) and the book..
    A dear post..gosh the book looks good:)

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  20. That's an easy gourmet recipe. It looks so inviting!

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  21. Looks delicious, I'll have to try this.Maybe for Thanksgiving..Thanks for the recipe..

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  22. We have a wonderful, small French bistro restaurant that makes perfect haricots vert every time. If I could duplicate them at home, I'd be a happy gal. This looks wonderful!

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  23. this looks so good I guess pate could also work, love the transitional food idea

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  24. Green beans, walnuts and foie gras? I'm a little dazed and delighted just thinking about it!

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  25. Another elegant dish. We are growing French green beans in our earth box right now.

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  26. I've recently become enamored with walnut oil. It's so good to cook with, and for vinaigrettes. Not sure if I can foie gras, but that's just a personal issue I have. Even without the foie gras, I'm sure this is flavorful.

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  27. UNE ASSIETTE SIMPLE ET APPÉTISSANTE
    Je te souhaite une belle journée

    Valérie.

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  28. Sam,
    Just finished the book! It was a good read. The salad looks marvelous. It is something I would order at a lovely restaurant as my mister would not eat green beans!!!!

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    Carol

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  29. I have to try this salad, thanks and have a great November weekend, hugs, Flavia

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  30. Simple, elegant and beautiful. Best part of all delicious. Awesome recipe- glad you see you posting again! Missed you

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  31. Great shot of another fancy salad.

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  32. Perfect salad. Love the salt crystals on the plate. It is cool in Northern Florida.

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  33. I would not have thought of adding walnuts to green beans and walnut oil – that sounds interesting. I’ll try it.

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  34. What a beautiful, elegant salad, Sam. I can almost taste those wonderful flavors and the textures are so nicely balanced. This is definitely a time when only the best quality will do. Thanks for sharing.

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  35. Simple yet elegant, nicely done, Sam! Yep, I also have that "craving shift" this time of the year.

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  36. What a beautiful salad, Sam!Adding the foie gras just makes my mouth water more~

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  37. This is a beautiful salad that we would really enjoy. Thank you for sharing and have a wonderful week!
    Miz Helen

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  38. I love cooking with walnut oil! All the grocery stores around here carry it. I had to google foie gras however, and wish I hadn't. It brought up one website that described what it was in culinary circles (which is what I was looking for), and all the rest were dreadful links about the practice of force feeding birds. I didn't open any of them, but just seeing the pictures on my google page is going to give me nightmares. :(

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  39. I really love the textures of your salad, Sam. It looks beautiful and it has wonderful color. There is nothing here not to like. I hope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  40. Beautiful salad, simple and so elegant. Love the different flavors and textures in this salad.
    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead Sam :-)

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  41. Such a simple, gorgeous way to serve green beans. Truly elegant, Sam!

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  42. So delicious and so luxurious. I am hungry now.

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  43. Lovely! So wonderful with walnuts and foie gras!

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  44. I happen to have all of those ingredients at home, that is, except for the precious foie gras. I will try it just with the beans, I think this makes an elegant side dish.

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  45. A perfect dinner for friends & family to enjoy in these colder months. It is freezing over here!

    Time for some good & excellent dishes like this one!
    A real winner & beautifully composed too! ;)

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  46. A wonderful lunch meal or a great starter course. On this last trip to Europe vendors were selling the fresh green walnuts. A very good and surprising taste.

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  47. Sounds delicious. And the book looks like fun, too.

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  48. The cranberry sauce is in the fridge, Sam - waiting for the big day. It does taste "oo-la-la!" Happy Thanksgiving. May you have a gracious day!

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  49. So pretty, sophisticated, and full of flavor! What a great way to prepare green beans.

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Sam