The evenings are pleasant enough now to warrant an al fresco dinner on the terrace, patio, deck, screened porch, lanai, velvety green lawn, sandy seaside, or down on the rocks by the lake. Simplicity is key, especially to the requisite side dishes, leave any needed fuss or attention to the main course.
Our recipe for today should become a standard in your warm-weather repertoire, it is easy, elegant, and unusual. The name is perhaps misleading as it is certainly not your standard Deli Counter mayonnaise-drenched potato salad with some green beans thrown in, which I do enjoy by the way. No, this is a slightly complex assemblage of tastes and textures that easily accompany grilled beef, roasted fowl, or a rich pan-seared fish.
It can be made in advance and refrigerated, just return to room temperature and toss gently a few time before serving. It is also economical, and the recipe may be increased to suit your needs.
If Haricot Vert are unavailable (which are simply baby French green beans), choose green beans that are younger and more tender.
Fingerlings are quite commonplace these days, but if one cannot find them in the market, I have often seen little satchels of mixed-color baby potatoes which would work quite well here. If one can find neither, good ol’ russets do just fine (just cut them into ¾ inch pieces).
The brash vinaigrette is unapologetically fragrant with garlic and anchovy, and please do not be put off by that. The boldness is calmed by the startchy potatoes. (If one must, halve the amount asked for - they really do make a difference!)
Haricot Vert and Fingerlings
Yield: 4 - 6 servings
Time: 1 ½ hour
2 pounds fingerlings, colorful baby, or russet potatoes (cut into halves, or ¾ inch pieces)
Salt and pepper
1 bay leaf
1 large thyme sprig
3 garlic cloves, smashed to a paste with a little salt
1 tablespoon chopped anchovy
1 tablespoon chopped capers
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound small French beans, or small romano or wax beans
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chives
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
2 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
6 to 8 anchovy fillets, optional, for garnish
8 ounces arugula, optional
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme branch. Cook at a brisk simmer until the potatoes are firm but easily pierced with a skewer, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
While the potatoes are cooking, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, anchovy, capers, mustard and vinegar.
Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk again before using if the dressing separates.
When the potatoes are still warm but cool enough to handle, transfer to a low bowl, season lightly with salt and pepper and add half the vinaigrette.
Using your hands, gently coat the potatoes with the vinaigrette, taking care not to break them. Cover and set aside at room temperature.
Top and tail the beans. Simmer in salted water until firm-tender, about 3 to 4 minutes, then cool under running water and pat dry.
When ready to serve, season the beans with salt and pepper, then dress with the remaining vinaigrette. (Reserve 2 tablespoons vinaigrette for the arugula, if using.)
Combine the dressed beans and potatoes, using hands to toss, and pile onto a platter. Sprinkle with chives, parsley and basil.
Garnish with anchovy fillets, if desired.
Dress the arugula and send it to the table separately.