Act natural, colorful, warm!
EVENT: Cara and Phoebe’s Quarter-Life Kitchen Photoshoot #2
VENUE: Central Park
PARTY SIZE: 4
TYPE: Saturday Picnic
MENU: String Beans with Mustard Dressing and Cured Shallots; Pomodoro Fresco Pasta Salad; Hard Boiled Egg Sandwiches; Carrot Raisin Cookies
Recently, we staged a picnic photoshoot for our book
. Though the food, the friends, and the sun were real, and the mud was definitely real enough to engulf poor Essie’s new gladiator sandal, the constant smiling and coordinated floral clothing may have been just a tad bit posed. The outtake above, by Alex
, was taken on that unseasonably warm March day.
The picnic was early enough in the season that the following weekend was wool coat-wearing weather, and of course it’s raining again now, but it got me thinking about the outdoor eating that’s soon to be upon us. I’ve always loved eating outside; at camp, the best of all dinners were the ones that took place on the lawn, and I remember the last meal Essie, Phoebe, and I ate together before we all went our separate ways to college. Essie made sandwiches, Phoebe brought salad, and I baked toffee bars. We sat in Sheep’s Meadow and exchanged cheesy notes about our friendship.
But the picnic that reminded me to make a batch of these green beans was a different affair. My mom and I had been invited to a potluck dinner on the beach late one summer a few years ago. My mom obviously knew the woman who’d invited us, but we hadn’t met her friends, and so we didn’t really know anyone else there. We were both a little nervous. In the afternoon, we made a double recipe of this string bean salad with summer’s crop of beans. When we got to the beach at sunset, we put it down with the rest of the food spread and went about eating and making friends. By the end of the night, unlikely as it sounds, we’d talked to everyone at the picnic. It’s not that either of us had gotten a sudden burst of outgoing-ness, but rather that nearly 100% of the guests had sought us out as the culprits behind the green beans.
Truthfully, I can’t believe I haven’t made these green beans for every potentially awkward situation since, but now that I’ve remembered them, I’d advise you to.
From my kitchen, where green beans make me a social butterfly, to yours,
Cara, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
String Beans with Mustard Dressing and Cured Shallots
Adapted from Peter Berley’s The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen
Makes 4-6 servings
1 small red onion or shallot, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds of string beans, trimmed
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons mild honey
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
pinch cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
Spread a clean kitchen towel on a baking sheet and set aside.
Place the sliced onion or shallot in a small bowl and cover with the vinegar. Set aside to let cure for 10-15 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to boil. Salt it generously and add the trimmed string beans. Cook uncovered for 4-6 minutes, until just tender. When they’re done, drain them, then spread them out onto the towel-lined pan to fully dry. This will allow the dressing to coat the beans.
In your salad bowl, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, honey, salt, and cayenne. Whisk until smooth. Slowly whisk in the oil until creamy.
Mix the beans into the dressing. Drain the onions and toss to combine. This salad is best if you let it sit for 15-30 minutes after. That’s what it’s great for picnics–it only gets more flavorful with time.