An Israeli and a Palestinian in England taught me a new word in French.
No matter how many ways I try to string that sentence together, it always sounds like the beginning of a joke that starts in a bar. Luckily, the story ends in the kitchen.
The restaurant is Ottolenghi, the one they partnered to open a decade ago. The dishes draw upon their common food memories and Mediterranean influences. I can only surmise this based on the two cookbooks that have come out of their kitchen. I’ve never been to their restaurants. But I have eaten their food. And that’s how today’s digression begins.
The French word I learned is mangetout. It comes from the French words manger (to eat) and tout (all). It refers to varieties of peas that are eaten whole in their pods which are edible when young — the flat-podded snow peas and the round-podded sugarsnap peas. Those Brits! Their supposed animosity with the French and their food — the two cultures trade mild insults, with the English calling the French “frogs” for cuisses de grenouilles, the frogs legs they eat, and the French calling the English “rosbifs” for the roast beef they eat — must be some sort of ruse to cover up their love of French food names like courgette (zucchini) and rocket/roquette (arugula).
When I saw the picture opposite the recipe for French beans and mangetout with hazelnut and orange, I immediately flagged page 36 in Ottolenghi – The Cookbook. The name intrigued me as I myself have been known to mange tout. The crunchy hazelnuts nestled between long skinny haricots verts (as you might guess, I like calling them by their French name) and wide flat mangetout and threads of orange zest spoke to me. They said mangez moi, eat me. And so I did.
The hazelnuts were toasted and skinned and chopped. The haricots and mangetout were blanched in boiling water and shocked in ice water. The glistening green pods were drained and dried in a towel. The oranges were zested and juiced. The chives were sliced. Everything was thrown into a bowl with a few dashes of olive and nut oils. A sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper, and that picture jumped off of page 36 and into my kitchen.
Haricots vert and mangetout with hazelnut and orange
This recipe is adapted from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook. There are a number of steps in the recipe, but they all are pretty quick and can be done in parallel if you plan ahead. While toasting the hazelnuts, blanch and shock the beans in separate batches (because the mangetout require only about a minute to cook). The nuts and beans should be ready around the same time. Right before serving, mix together the beans, zest and juice the orange over the bowl, add oils, salt and pepper, and adjust seasoning. Then sprinkle with chives and hazelnuts.
Hazelnut oil canbe difficult to find – the one I use is made in France by Phillipe Vigean – it’s kosher and I found it at Zabar’s in NY. La Tourangelle‘s hazelnut oil is more readily available but is not yet kosher. A good alternative is to try toasted almonds and almond oil. La Tourangelle’s almond oil is excellent and, like most of their oils made in California, is kosher; the ones made in France are not certified. Make sure to store all nut oils in the refrigerator as they can go rancid quickly.
- 1 lb haricots verts (very thin French grean beans)
- 1 lb mangetout, i.e., sugersnap peas or snow peas (I used snow peas)
- 2 garlic cloves
- large handful of chives
- 2 oranges for zest and juice
- 1 C unskinned hazelnuts
- 4 T oilve oil
- 2-3 T hazelnut or other nut oil
- coarse sea salt and black pepper
Prepare. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Trim the stalk ends from the the green beans and mangetout, but keep them separate. If you want to be really French, remove the tails from the green beans, but I like how they look. Finely chop the garlic. Roughly chop the chives. Zest and juice the oranges. If you don’t have a zester, remove very thin layers of orange peel with a sharp knife, leaving behind all traces of white, and then slice them into long, skinny strips.
Toast. Scatter the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast them for 7 – 10 minutes until you can smell them. Wrap them in a cloth towel so that they steam will loosen the papery skins. When they are cool, rub them in the towel to remove most of the skins. Roughly chop them.
Blanch. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt and when the water returns to a boil, blanch the haricots for 4 minutes and then quickly fish them out and shock them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Bring the water to a boil again and blanch the mangetout for only 1 minute, and then shock them in another bowl of ice water. Drain the beans and let them dry.
Toss. Mix the beans together in a bowl. Add the orange juice, oils, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with orange zest and chopped hazelnuts.