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An Arab Fable

Once in his shop a workman wrought

With languid hand, and listless thought,

When through the open window’s space

Behold!–a Camel thrust his face.

“My nose is cold,” he meekly cried,

“Oh, let me warm it by thy side.”


Since no denial word was said,

In came the nose,–in came the head,–

As sure as sermon follows text

The long excursive neck came next,

And then, as falls the threatening storm

In leaped the whole ungainly form.

(from Gleanings, by Lydia Huntley Sigourney, 1860)

For food historian Mark Kurlansky the advent of bottled salad dressing represented the ‘camel’s nose’ of industrial food slipping into American kitchens. “What could better spell the beginning of the end than bottled salad dressing, the manufacture of a product that was so easy to make at home?” he writes in The Food of a Younger Land (2009).

To a significant degree we have allowed industrial foods to displace homemade ones.  But there are ways to begin nudging the camel out of the kitchen.  One of the easiest strategies for retaking the kitchen from prepackaged and processed food is to make fresh vegetables in simple forms that are delicious.  Cooking Balsamic French Green Beans is an excellent tack for sending the camel packing.

Balsamic French Green Beans ~ Haricots verts balsamiques (for 8 people)

Note: To print this recipe, or any other diplomatickitchen recipe, go to the bottom of the page, at the end of the post, and click on the icon: Print & PDF. You will have the option of printing in smaller text size and without photos.

A Timing Note:  The beans may be blanched in advance and set aside in a bowl of ice water for several hours.  The sauce may also be made in advance and both beans and sauce mixed together and cooked very briefly just to heat the beans before serving.


  • Salted Water mixed with 1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda) for blanching the beans
  • 2 pounds of French green beans
  • 6 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of Toasted Sesame Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 4 cloves of Garlic, minced
  • Optional decoration:  Strips of Roasted Red Pepper


  • a Pot for blanching the beans
  • a Colander
  • a Bowl of Ice Water
  • a Cotton Towel in which to dry the beans before mixing them with the sauce
  • a small Bowl and Whisk
  • a heavy-bottomed Pot for making the balsamic sauce reduction and reheating the beans in it

1.  French green beans are stringless.  Trim off their tips…and they are ready to cook.  Photographs of trimming haricots verts are here in a previous diplomatickitchen post.

2.  Bring a pot of salted water mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking soda to a boil.  Put the trimmed beans in the boiling water and blanch them (i.e. cook them briefly) for 2 minutes.  Drain them in the colander and put them in ice water to stop their cooking and preserve their bright green color.  (The baking soda also helps keep the beans green.)

3.  Whisk together the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, sugar and sesame oil in a small bowl.

4.  Heat the sesame and olive oils in the heavy-bottomed pot.  Add the garlic and sauté it, stirring, until it begins to color and turn golden.

5.  Add the sauce mixture to the pot and cook it over medium heat to reduce it.  As the sauce begins to reduce, little patches of sizzling bubbles will appear on its surface.  The entire surface of the sauce will be a bubbling mass when the sauce is almost ready.  The finished reduction….

…is dense, dark and syrupy:

5.  Just before serving, drain the beans and dry them in a cotton towel.  Bring the balsamic reduction to a simmer over medium heat, add the beans and toss them around, just long enough to coat them in the sauce and heat them through:

Last Touch:  Roasted Red Pepper Strip Redux….

6.  Arrange the beans in bundles on side plates or next to the Main Course.  Strips of roasted red pepper look nice placed over them:

A Note:  Balsamic French Green Beans are served with the Main Course of Salmon ‘au poivre’ for the Dinner:  Mixing Dinner and Business.

© Elizabeth Laeuchli, the diplomatickitchen, 2011-2012