Archive for August 19th, 2009

tweaking tradition


Tradition is good. Family memories. In my bedroom, the chair that Bubbie once rocked me and my sister on.

Bubbie's rocking chair

The hat pins that she used to keep next to her sofa.  They were her mother’s.

hat pins

I like holding onto these things. And sometimes too many things (I have a friend who keeps threatening to come to my place with 5 contractor bags and to start the “clean-up” process by discarding something with sentimental value). And while food no doubt creates memory — strong memories — every so often there is the need to recreate new traditions or update old ones..

Growing up, I recall that almost every time my mother  entertained she would make what seemed to me to be a quintessential Thanksgiving dinner: turkey, roasted potatoes (or some variation thereof — sweet potatoes, or maybe mashed potatoes), green beans almondine, “dirty” rice with mushrooms and onions, and apple pie or chocolate chip pound cake. Now, I have never made a turkey and this menu is relegated to my mother’s kitchen and glass dining room table (having always been assigned to clean the fingerprints off the table before dinner and any food remnants after, I now only buy wood furniture). This menu tastes to me like family coming together.

As much as I like to hold on to tradition, I also try to create some of my own. Anything from a few variations to turning the world upside down. This recipe is about tweaking and in my mind, improving on a classic. It started with some yellow beans that I got from my CSA.

haricots jaunes

I reinvented my mothers green beans almondine and turned it on its head from methodology to ingredients. Whereas growing up we boiled or steamed green beans (to keep things lower fat) and threw on some sliced or slivered almonds, here I substituted yellow beans for green and sauteed them, toasted some hand-chopped whole hazelnuts, and added lemon juice and a lush slightly sweet drizzle of sweet hazelnut oil.

Haricots Jaunes aux Noisettes (Yellow Beans with Hazelnuts)


This recipe can easily be be made with green beans and almonds — just leave out the hazelnut oil (which truth be told can be difficult to find). Haricots jaunes – yellow beans taste just like haricots verts, the green ones, though to the best of my knowledge haricots verts normally refers to the really skinny green beans. When I did a summer exchange in France (in Mont-près-Chambord in the Loire Valley) during high school, I was taught to choose the skinniest of the bunch while still plump, and to pick les haricots one-by-one rather than just grabbing them by the handful. To this day, I still pick my haricots comme ça. I received these haricots jaunes from my CSA.

I always toast the nuts first for a few reasons. First,this enables a dry roast. Second, it makes it less likely to burn them. Finally, if allows me to make some extra for things like topping chocolate ice cream. Oh, what a perfect dessert. Actually, I’m thinking gelato.

Serves 2-3.

– 1/4-1/3 C hazelnuts

– 1.5 C yellow beans

– 1 shallot

– kosher salt

– 2 t olive oil

– 1 lemon

– 2 t hazelnut oil: I use Philippe Vigean brand (OU; info in Resources tab); La Tourangelle also makes a hazelnut oil, but theirs is not kosher.

Phillipe Vigean hazelnut oil

Prepare ingredients: Chop hazelnuts. Remove tips from beans. Thinly slice shallot.

mise en place

Toast hazelnuts: Using the pan you plan to use for the haricots, dry toast the chopped hazelnuts with a few pinches of salt over medium heat until fragrant (5-7 minutes). Remove from pan.

Cook beans: Pour olive oil in pan and heat over medium heat with sliced shallots. Add yellow beans and toss in oil for 2-3 minutes. Add juice of lemon to  pan and cover to allow beans to steam another 3-5 minutes (depending on how crunchy you like your beans). Uncover and add toasted hazelnuts (you don’t need to use all the nuts) with hazelnut oil, continuing to toss beans in the mixture, adding more salt to taste.

Serve beans immediately. And don’t forget the throw any leftover slighty salty toasted hazelnuts on your ice cream.

ready to eat

Some of the toasted hazelnuts fall to the bottom of the plate — I love this part.

last few bites, crunchy salty hazelnuts

The hat pins that she used to keep next to her sofa.  They were her mother’s.

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