Mark Bittman's Pumpkin Panna Cotta
Roasted Trout with Pancetta and Sage

Thomas Keller's Haricots Verts in Red Wine Vinegar Cream


Not really the most appetizing image up there, I know. It looks mostly like a mess of green beans defiled by too much mayonnaise. Would you believe that that inelegant creation comes from the deeified Thomas Keller, reprinted from the very pages of his spectacularly beautiful cookbook? Oh yes, I know, there were supposed to be little snippets of chives decorating the beans (but my chives were moldy), and half-moons of cherry tomatoes on the rim of the plate (but my friends don't eat tomatoes! It's a good thing I like my friends so much, or, you know, pffft), and the beans were to be sliced into 1-inch segments (but I wasn't, er, paying attention). So what you have there is really the unfancified version of beans in cream.

I've been eyeing this recipe for some time. It comes from a piece in the LA Times that Regina Schrambling did on vinegar in cooking. I thought it sounded like a lovely combination, and simple to boot. It was at the grocery store that I had my first misgivings. Half a pound of green beans is enough to feed four as a side dish, yes. But in a third of a cup of whisked cream? It sounded like cream overkill. And it was. If I made this again (or if you do), I'd double the amount of beans so that they aren't drowning in the sauce. Also? A teaspoon of vinegar is barely enough to tickle the cream, let alone actually taste like anything on your tongue. So I doubled that to 2 teaspoons, which was delicious.

The dish went nicely with a simple fillet of fish. But we kept wondering as we ate, who would really choose this unhealthy version of beans over the trusty standby dressing of oil, vinegar and a handy sprinkle of summer savory? The bottom line: whipped cream on my beans was a fun departure for once, but I don't think I'll make it again.

Incidentally, that whipped cream minus the additions would have gone perfectly dolloped on our dessert: Nigella Lawson's chocolate babycakes from the NY Times in December. I know: yawn. Aren't they so 1999? I'm late to the molten-chocolate-cake party, so I'm not giving them their own post. But at least they get their own picture. And if you're wondering, yes, they were good.

Haricots verts in red wine vinegar cream
Serves 4

1/2 pound haricots verts
coarse sea salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon best-quality red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped chives
16 grape tomatoes, cut in half.

1. Trim the stem ends of the beans and cut them into 1-inch lengths

2. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Blanch the beans for 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to chill. Pat dry.

3. Beat cream until it just thickens and the whisk leaves a trail in the bowl. Gently fold in vinegar, and salt and pepper. Do not overbeat.

4. Toss the beans with cream, garnish with chives and serve at once on a plate rimmed with halved tomatoes.