It's Julia Child's birthday today, and last year Lisa at Champaign Taste had the great idea of celebrating by asking people to prepare a Julia recipe. Last year I did a Cobb Salad, which was so good, I still think about it. That salad took hours to make, and I did quite a bit of swearing during the process. But this year, I made a very simple salad of green beans, tomatoes, and watercress, which took very little time. It was delicious, and I liked that it shows Julia Child recipes are not all rich, laden with cream, or difficult. Second, it features blanched green beans, which I learned to do from watching Julia on TV, back when I was a teenager. Until then, I hated eating green beans, which were usually tasteless, gray, and mushy. What a revelation it was to taste beans cooked for only 4-7 minutes, with a bit of crunch left in them, then plunged into ice water to set the color. It's still one of my favorite things to eat, tossed in butter, with chopped herbs.
This salad celebrates the best of summer's bounty. I used tomatoes and beans from my garden. And the watercress makes me think how far we've come with the foods offered in grocery stores today. Watercress was a rarity when I was younger, one of those "gourmet" foods that chefs like Julia used in recipes, but I could never find. Now, it's always in the produce section, and I think Julia played a part in that, by helping spark an interest in cooking good food. So, this salad is special to me. It has green beans cooked the way I learned from Julia, fresh picked tomatoes, and easy to find watercress. Thank you Julia. And thank you Lisa. Great event. Maybe next year I'll make one of those Julia recipes with lots of cream and butter. Now, everyone check out Lisa's Roundup of Julia recipes today!
Fresh Green Beans With Watercress And Tomatoes, Oil And Lemon Dressing
(Julia Child, Julia Child & Company)
Serves 4-6 People
1 pound fresh green beans
salt and pepper
1 bunch watercress, or 1/2 head of romaine
1 small clove garlic
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 or more Tablespoons of olive oil
1 small to medium red onion
Assortment of tomatoes, including 2 cups cherry tomatoes, 2-3 plum tomatoes, and 2 regular tomatoes. Use whatever kind you like
Clean beans by trimming tops and stringing them (if necessary). Bring a large pot of water to boil and dump the beans in it. Cook for 4 minutes and taste a bean to see if it's ready. Cook a minute or two more if necessary, but don't let them get soft. You want a bit of a crunch. Drain the beans in a colander and immediately run cold water on them, then put them in a large bowl filled with ice water, to set the color. After a couple minutes, drain well and set aside. This can be done well in advance and set in the fridge.
Prepare dressing an hour before serving. Peel off half of the zest on the lemon and mince very fine. Place in a mortar or small bowl with salt and puree it with the garlic and pound into a paste. Beat in the mustard gradually, then 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and the oil. Taste and correct the seasoning, adding more lemon juice and salt and pepper, if you wish.
Peel the onion and slice into thin rings or dice it into small pieces. Drizzle some of the dressing on them, set aside. Halve the cherry tomatoes and cut the other tomatoes into chunks, place in a bowl and add salt and pepper. If you're using romaine instead of watercress, slice it thinly.
Just before serving, arrange the watercress or romaine in the bottom of a bowl or platter. Toss the blanched beans in the bowl of dressing and add salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the beans, tomatoes, and onions on top of the cress or romaine. Drizzle the rest of the dressing on top of the salad and serve.