If I had to pick one way to eat fresh green beans, this would be it. The beans, still crisp and slightly charred from a quick saute in hot toasted walnut oil, are topped with meaty roasted walnuts, huge flakes of sea salt and fresh lemon juice and zest. It is, in a word, perfect. But because there are so few ingredients, each one must be just right. Normally I’m not so specific when it comes to ingredients in a dish–I don’t really care what brand of oil or salt you use, for example. But here, it makes all the difference. Trust me, take the time to seek out the ingredients below and you will achieve greatness (at least in the kitchen, and in under ten minutes too). If only everything in life were this simple!
The walnut oil must be La Tourangelle, which is available at Whole Foods markets and William Sonoma stores nationwide (or online). The company is the first in California to use traditional French methods in their oil extraction. First the nuts are washed, sorted and dried for several days. Then they are slowly roasted in large cast-iron kettles. The resulting paste is pressed, and the oil is then filtered and bottled. Why does all this matter? Because the taste is phenomenal–rich and smooth with no bitter taste at all. I use it nearly every time I make salad dressing, though their hazelnut oil is another favorite of mine. Also, walnut oil is unrefined, which means that it’s loaded with antioxidants and omega-3. And did I mention that it’s delicious? I would bathe in the stuff if I could. (Did I also mention that I am not paid to promote this or any other product on this blog?)
The salt must be Maldon Salt. Harvested in Essex, England, its large pyramid-shaped salt crystals are ideal for finishing this dish, or any dish really. They are very light and not overly salty and are free from the bitter aftertaste that is sometimes associated with other salts. It too is available at Whole Foods and other specialty food shops nationwide, or online. I love salt…and this is the brand I love most of all.
Finally, let’s chat about the green beans. Grow them in your garden or buy them in farmers markets for best results. But if you have to fudge on one ingredient–and I won’t lie that I’ve been hungry for this and made it successfully with supermarket beans (gasp!)–this would be the one. However, I promise you that the difference in taste is real and quite noticeable. Farm fresh green beans are much more tender, crisp and nutty in flavor than their conventional counterparts. And as for the lemons, well, pretty much any lemon will do.
See? That wasn’t so bad, was it?
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts to the dry pan and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. It takes a few minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Return pan to the heat and add the walnut oil. Add the green beans to the pan (if they're still wet from washing they may splatter so be careful) and saute, stirring frequently until the beans are crisp tender, about 5 minutes.
- Arrange green beans on a platter. Sprinkle with lemon zest and lemon juice. Top with toasted walnuts and Maldon Salt. Serve immediately or at room temperature.