“We ate vegetables only in season, or ate the kinds that can be stored for the winter. From spring’s first tender peas to fall’s last Brussel sprouts we enjoyed each at its best, then were satisfied to wait until the calendar brought it around again.” (from Louis Diat’s French Cooking for Americans)
Louis Diat’s French Cooking for Americans (published in 1946) contains many good recipes, and many fond memories of his childhood home in France. Eating seasonally as a way of turning eating simply into fine eating is a recurring theme.
There are many attractions to the notion of eating seasonally. One of them has to do with anticipation. Anticipating a thing can be as good as having it. It is, arguably, part and parcel of enjoying the actual thing. Why forgo the pleasure of waiting?
French Green Beans with Garlic Crisps (for 4 people)
In the United States, these little green beans are in season from summer through early fall. In the Fall, their flavour peaks as their price goes down.
- 1/2 pound of French Green Beans (also sold as ‘haricots vert’)
- 2 Tablespoons of butter
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in thin slices
- 1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
- freshly ground salt and pepper
- a pot for blanching the beans
- a bowl of ice water
- a flat pan with a heavy bottom
1. French Green Beans are stringless. An easy way of trimming them is to stand a handful on end–like dancers on toe shoes–to align them…
…lay them flat and cut off the tips:
Trim the beans’ tips at both ends in this way.
2. Fill the pot with water and 1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda and bring the water to a boil. (Bicarbonate of Soda tenderizes vegetables and will prevent green ones from losing their bright color when they are cooked.)
3. Put the beans in the boiling water and cook them for 2 minutes. Drain them and put them in a bowl of ice water until you are ready to heat and serve them:
4. Melt the butter in the pan. Add the sliced garlic and brown it slowly. (The butter will brown, too.) Drain the beans, add them to the pan and mix everything together well until the beans are warmed. If you prefer softer beans, increase the time they heat with the garlic and butter.
An Even Simpler Alternative way of Serving these French Green Beans
French Green Beans are also very good cooked according to the method described above, heated in a little butter, tossed with chopped parsley, freshly ground salt and pepper…
…and placed in bundles on each plate:
A Second Note: You can join openlibrary.org for free and read Louis Diat’s French Cooking for Americans online. It is such a pleasingly written and useful book, however, that you may want to buy your own copy–as I did. There are inexpensive used copies available through Amazon sellers.
A Final Suggestion: For many years, Louis Diat was head chef at the Ritz-Carlton in New York. In the fifties, he was also the ‘in-house chef’ at Gourmet Magazine and contributed articles in a series called “Primer for Gourmets: First Lessons In [a different subject in each article]”. Articles from this series, as well as others he wrote, are available online here in Gourmet Magazine ‘s archives.
© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012