I hoard recipes. The Critic hoards entire magazines, but I tend to rip out the relevent pages and tuck them away for future use. I have a manilla file where they are all supposed to wait for that mythical day when I have the time to sort through them, try them, type them into a database and maybe get rid of the scraps of paper. But actually, they are everywhere: tucked between cookbooks, stuck under the jewelry box in the bedroom, in the magazine rack of the living room with 3 year old TV guides. It's a silly habit because I almost never try these recipes. They sound great the day I read and rip but then afterwards, the glow is gone. I think, "Why did I save that?" As the exception that proves the rule, I present this recipe which was mainly based on a Nigel Slater recipe published in the Observer in June of 2004. I noticed it on the desk in the bedroom that I never use because the bedroom is really for sleeping and getting dressed, not desks. I was looking for something else and it caught my eye and because I knew I had foolishly (or wisely)* invited two groups of people over for a barbecue this week I stopped to look and see if it would give me an idea for a dish. And it did!
* I am a temporarily single mother this week, as the Critic is off fishing (unsuccessfully so far) in Canada. So it is up to debate whether it is wise to invite over friends for dinner and have adult conversation or foolish to increase the stress in a stressful life by hosting a dinner party.
Nigel's recipe calls for cooking dried cannellini beans, soaking them overnight and then boiling them for 40 minutes. Personally I have never found that big beans cook that quickly, even with an overnight soak. And I'm a single mother this week; I have no time for unnecessary work. I bought a big jar of cooked haricots blancs and substituted them. Another substitution was the odd spinach I bought at the organic market this weekend that I used instead of the cress in Nigel's recipe. As it turned out, this worked very well as the spinach was slightly bitter and gave a sharp flavour to the salad.
It was a fantastic salad - perfect for a hot summer lunch but also a nice way to round out a barbecue dinner for nine, when it's difficult to say whether you have prepared enough or too many turkey cutlets and hamburgers. If there is any left for dinner the next day, the flavours have had time to intensify and it's even better.
Salade de haricots blance et saumon grillé (serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as a main)
400 g cooked white beans or 200 g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and then cooked 40 minutes or until tender but still a bit meaty.
800 g salmon steaks
1 small purple onion, chopped
2 handfuls of cress or heirloom spinach
For the dressing:
a small handful of basil leaves
3-4 stalks of tender young tarragon
a very small handful of parsley leaves (they are not really out of the nursery stage on my terrace garden yet)
50 ml of your best olive oil
1 tiny clove of spring garlic
2 Tbs of lemon juice
Cook the salmon on the grill until opaque and cooked through, skin side down and lid on the grill. This will ensure that if anything sticks to the grill it's the inedible skin and not the delectable fish. While it is cooking, rinse the beans (if they come from a jar), clean and chop the spinach and mix them together with the onion. Remove the salmon from the grill if it is done. Very finely chop the herbs and then toss them over the bean mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients, first chopping the garlic as finely as you can. Toss the beans and onions mixture.
By now the salmon will hopefully have cooled down enough to handle. Break it into just-slightly-larger-than-bite-sized pieces, taking care to remove any bones you may find. Toss the beans with the salmon and serve at room temperature. If you used dried beans, taste first for salt as it may need a pinch.