In summer’s height, you can walk into a garden and the abundance will hit your fingers as they strike tomato, pepper, eggplant, squash, fig, and basil. The challenge built into summer cooking is what to cook tonight and what to put off cooking until tomorrow. Beans and cherry tomatoes ripened on the vine naturally grow alongside basil leaves. By adding in preserved lemons you bring a bright, briny unami kick to the summer flavors.
Fresh green beans behave and taste very differently from the uniform greenhouse grown and imported beans. The local beans show less uniformity and often have much more flavor and bite. By cutting the beans into medium-thick slices, the aroma and spice of the lemon, tomato, and hot pepper can penetrate without taking away the bean flavor and texture. Pick green beans that are medium-sized and still firm—you want to avoid bloated or immature beans and aim for a consistent size. Clip off the stems and long pointy ends first, then slice the beans on the bias (on the slant). Salt the blanching water and the ice-bath to give the beans even seasoning and maintain the texture.
Please refer to the previous recipe on The Blog (Poached Scallops) for information on how to purchase Calabrian peppers and either purchase or make preserved lemons.
3 cups fresh green beans, medium diced/sliced on a bias
¾ cup cherry tomatoes, whole (Sun Gold or Black Cherry tomatoes are preferred)
1 tablespoon preserved lemon, small diced (rinse, cut out the pith, and small dice the skin)
1 teaspoon Calabrian hot pepper, small diced (or a Jalapeno, small diced)
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn in half (right before serving)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Bring a medium-large pot of salted water to a boil.
2. Add in the sliced green beans, and cook them for about 3-4 minutes, until they are not hard and stringy but still have a bite (al dente!).
3. Pull the green beans from the water and place them in salted ice water to cool.
4. Pull the cooled green beans out of the water and place them on a sheet tray covered with parchment paper or large plate covered with unbleached paper towels to drain.
5. Heat up the oil in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat.
6. Add in the green beans, cherry tomatoes, preserved lemon, and Calabrain hot pepper, and sauté until barely cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.
7. Right before removing the pan from the heat, add in the torn basil, and then pull the pan from the heat.
8. Serve the green beans immediately (these beans will turn dark green if you let them sit around for a while before serving—the acid in the lemon and tomato will cause this to happen.) You can pre-blanch the beans, pull them from the ice-bath, drain them, and then place them in a container for about two days if you wish to complete through step four ahead of time.
9. This recipe creates a versatile side dish that pairs with most meats, fish, or vegetarian entrees.