Summer Bean Salad

Salad is good. But what’s this prickle of shame I feel when I say it?

I want to show you food that wets the tongue, that tickles the groin. Rich, lush, ecstatic food. And I know that this may not be it, that it’s hard to do belly cartwheels for a garden salad. Still, I love them, and like any stubborn affair of the heart, it troubles me a little. Because for me–and maybe not only for me–salad seems a fairly potent symbol for the failure of female desire.

Did that come out of left field? Sorry reader. I know you don’t just write sentences like that, not about salad, and then you certainly don’t leave them like that, orphaned at the end of a paragraph. Except on days like this. Finesse-less days. I mean hungry days.

I love to watch men eat. I love the big bite, the gutsy chew, the hungry swallow, the finger lick, the sad sigh of an empty plate. And I love to watch a woman eat, if she knows how feed her hunger. But nothing makes me sadder than to watch a hungerless woman poke joylessly at her rabbit lunch. So suffice it to say that I feel a little implicated, maybe a little regretful, that this is the sixth salad I’ve posted here.

But I must also say that this salad is not that hunger-mocking salad. And that woman–knock on wood–is not, will never be, me. This salad is punishing: spicy, crunchy, mean. The kick comes from some pretty insane tasting wild arugula: not the limp, sterile prewashed stuff from the produce section. Instead, a dirt-caked, borderline weedlike vegetable that’s furry, fibrous and nose-burningly spicy. And cruel and intense and heartbreakingly good.

Otherwise, you’ll find your standard, thoughtfully thrown-together, celebrate-the-season deal in your salad bowl. Green and wax beans, roasted almonds, sheep’s milk cheese, a fine shallot dressing and some Cranberry beans that seduced me with their Jurassic Park shells.

This isn’t one of those sad salads that makes satisfaction seem a cruel, unfunny joke. Well, maybe. We ate this salad frenzied. There wasn’t enough of it. We left hungry. But reader, you know as well as I do that there are worse ways to eat, worse ways to live.

Summer Bean Salad

Ingredients:
– 1 bunch wild arugula, cleaned and roughly chopped
– 1 lb mixed summer beans: green, wax, cranberry, lima, etc.
– 1 handful roasted unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
– Shaved cheese, manchego or similar. I used a Spanish sheep’s milk.
– Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Dressing:
– 1 medium-sized shallot, finely chopped
– 4 tbsp red wine vinegar
– 3/4 tsp Dijon mustard
– 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
– 1/2 tsp sugar
– Kosher salt
– Fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

Make the dressing. Whisk shallots, vinegar, mustard, olive oil, sugar together in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt in pepper. Set aside. Blanch the beans. Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil, and cook green beans and wax beans for four minutes. Once cooked, shock the beans in salted cold water. Remove the beans, once cool, to a separate bowl. Shell cranberry beans and cook in same pot for ten minutes. Shock and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine beans, arugula, almonds and dressing. Toss thoroughly. Shave a generous helping of cheese over the top with a vegetable peeler. Season with salt and pepper, toss again, and serve.

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4 responses to “Summer Bean Salad

  1. You are an amazing writer “orphaned at the end of the paragraph” is so in the moment, editorially speaking. But I do gotta ask– do you get upset by women who joylessly poke at their lunch consisting OF rabbit or better suited FOR a rabbit? I’m just teasing ‘cuz the beauty part is either interpretation adds a depth of nuance. GREG

  2. What a lovely post – and about salad! Who would’ve thought it could inspire such words?

  3. What a great post… Totally captivated by the writing…. And the Salad of course. This is one to make! Simple, fresh, green and good for you :)

  4. Just the kind of salad the dog days of summer call for! (Why do we like spicy and wild when it is so spicy and hot outside???) Great post!

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