As a space saving measure on our tiny plots of gardens sculpted into the granite boulders, we grow many of our crops vertically. Up rather than out.
Shell peas, sugar snap peas, fragrant sweet peas, cucumbers, Scarlett Runner Beans, tomatoes, peppers and four varieties of pole beans.
Anything that can be trellised is “trained” to grow up on various size sections of cattle panels, some of them over 8 feet tall. In our farm’s rabbit-manure enriched soil, the plants are just like Jack’s beanstalks — they keep growing toward the sky. My husband stands on a step stool to harvest them.
An abundance of fresh yellow beans and perfectly ripe tomatoes inspired me to create the recipe for Fresh Bean, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad. The preparation is loosely based on a technique in a recent Bon Appetit magazine, and everything prepped, ready, and in its place, is critical to successful execution of this tasty dish.
The beans are precooked until just crisp-tender, and then hot sautéed with thinly sliced garlic, walnuts, anchovies, capers and hot pepper flakes. The pasta cooks in the hot bean water while the sauce finishes. Then the whole salad is gently tossed with fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh herbs and seasoned with lemon juice, sea salt and fresh pepper.
Please note the adjective fresh. This is a recipe where the fresh ingredients really shine.
Once plated and garnished with fresh herbs and flowers, this dish travels well to a potluck or lobster bake. We enjoyed Fresh Bean, Tomato, & Mozzarella Salad at room temperature for an early supper. This is hearty and nutritionally dense food that tastes good; no additional protein required. For a vegetarian version, skip the anchovies, or substitute with miso or seaweed.
For the adventurous cook, there is lots of opportunity for creativity. It’s really more the technique and your sense of palate. Vary the fresh herbs, add different veggies, chopped green onion or red onions, try different pastas. Whatever life gives you, particularly beans and tomatoes, this is a tasty way to try it!
Cheryl Wixson lives and cooks in Stonington. She welcomes food-related questions and comments at [email protected].
FRESH BEAN, TOMATO & MOZZARELLA SALAD
1 pound beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons drained capers
5 oil-packed anchovy fillets (optional)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup dry pasta (4 ounces)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (dill, parsley, chives, basil)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
Fresh herbs and flowers to garnish (optional)
Assemble ingredients and tools. Put a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil.
Trim the beans and chop into 1-inch pieces. Set aside. Thinly slice the garlic and set aside. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and reserve for later. Coarsely chop the walnuts and set aside. Tear the fresh mozzarella into pieces and chop the fresh herbs.
Cook the green beans in the boiling salted water until crisp-tender. Using a slotted spoon, remove the beans to a large fry pan and save the cooking water for the pasta.
Add the olive oil, anchovies, capers, walnuts, sliced garlic and red pepper flakes to the fry pan. Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the beans have started to blister and the garlic is soft.
While cooking the beans, cook the pasta in the reserved pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain the pasta and add to a large bowl.
Add the cooked bean mixture, lemon juice, mozzarella cheese, tomato halves and chopped herbs to the pasta. Gently stir to mix. Taste the pasta and season as needed with sea salt and fresh pepper.
Mound the salad on a platter, garnish with fresh herbs and flowers. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 467 calories, 19 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams fat, 512 mg. sodium, 5 grams fiber.