I had the quintessential summer salad the other night - green beans, cherry tomatoes, roasted hazelnuts, and a bit of frisee were tossed with a creamy herb vinegreta. Wayne and I were sitting at the cava bar at Contigo, and this salad kicked off our meal there. It was the kind of thing that made me sigh happily and settle into an evening of inspiring small plates, good wine, and easy-going conversation.
Contigo is the new-ish kid on the block in nearby Noe Valley, and focuses on Spanish-style small plates made with impeccable local produce. I don't really do restaurant reviews, but I have to say, I really appreciate meals like this. I love a tightly-edited menu with a point of view, and I love seeing what chefs do with local and seasonal produce. Meals like the one I had the other night open my eyes to combining ingredients in a way that might not have occurred to me, preparations I might not have thought of. I love leaving a restaurant feeling invigorated to try out new things in my own kitchen, and that is how I felt as we caught the J-Church trolley home from Noe Valley that night.
Some of you might be curious about all plates we ordered, so I'll list them off:
- Dirty Girl Green Bean Salad - Cherry Tomatoes, Creamy Herb Vinagreta, Hazelnuts
- Patatas Bravas - Fried Potatoes with Allioli, Salsa Brava
- Wild Lobster Mushrooms and Catalan Farm Corn - Garlic, Butter, Thyme
- Berenjenas Fritas - Fried Rosa Bianca Eggplant with Tomato Salmorejo
- Coca (Flatbread) with Gypy and Red Lipstick Peppers, Sweet Onions, Manchego, Herbs, and Marin Sun Farm Egg
I fell for the green bean salad quite hard. And I admit, I've been making my approximation of it all week. Before tasting the version at Contigo, I can't remember the last time I combined tomatoes and hazelnuts - but it really works. This version calls for standard green beans, but if my memory serves me right, the version at Contigo also used Romano beans, and perhaps some hericot vert. Play around with whatever beans looks best at your market.
Summer Green Bean Salad Recipe
I call for all green beans here, but if memory serves me correctly the Contigo version had a wonderful mix of Romano, haricot vert, and standard green beans. I think you'd want to cook each type of bean separately to make sure the thinner ones don't over cook. I'd also encourage you to dress the salad a bit more heavily than what you see in the photo - I always worry about over-dressing things before taking a photo, and now that I'm looking at the shot, the beans up there are looking a tab bit naked.
3/4 pound green beans, stems pinched off
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons heavy cream
scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
tiny pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
a handful of frisee or little gem hearts
a handful of small cherry tomatoes, each cut in half
1/2 cup hazelnuts, smashed and toasted
Start by making the dressing. Whisk together the chives, thyme, shallots, lemon juice, heavy cream, salt and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil with a fork, stirring until everything comes together. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Sometimes my lemon dressings have a puckery edge to them, and when that happens I just whisk in just a touch of honey to counterbalance the sour. Set aside.
In the meantime, bring two quarts of water to a boil. Salt generously and stir in the green beans. Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes. Just until the beans brighten up and soften a touch, I go a bit beyond "al dente" here for this salad. Quickly drain them and run under cold water to stop the cooking.
In a large bowl toss the green beans with the frisee, about 1/2 of the hazelnuts, with a big splash of the dressing. Toss well. Taste, and add more dressing, salt or pepper at this point. Toss again if needed. Add the tomatoes and toss very gently.
You can turn this out onto a platter or plate individually topped with the remaining hazelnuts.
Serves about 4.
Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 10 minutes