From Too Many Chefs -

July 26, 2006
Salade de haricots blancs et saumon grillé

salmonbeansal.jpgI 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.

Posted by Meg in Sussex at July 26, 2006 3:20 PM

This sounds delicious. Since it's been just as hot here in Berlin as it is in Paris, I'm constantly on the lookout for salad recipes. I'll print it right away and "file" the recipe somewhere.... Glad I'm not the only one who's appartment is filled with hundreds of recipes I've yet to try!

Posted by Dana on July 27, 2006 at 12:44 AM

Now that's a recipe I can get behind. I might make that tonight, in fact.

Posted by barrett on July 27, 2006 at 9:21 AM

Let me know how you like it - I thought it was delicious. In fact, i finished the last of it at lunch today and almost made it again tonight...!

By the way, I forgot to mention the main differences between my version and Nigel's:

- pre-cooked beans instead of dried ones (mentioned that)
- he used twice as much dressing and zapped it in a hand blender. I didn't have enough herbs and anyway I like the texture of little bits of herb leaves on beans. I thought it had plenty of flavour as I did it.
- he poached the salmon in water with wine, onion and a few juniper berries. I thought grilling gave it a more interesting texture, with crusty bits and a smoky flavour.

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 27, 2006 at 11:15 AM

Grilled salmon (my favorite), white beans and tarragon....what could be bad?! My tarragon has taken over the garden this year, and I've been looking for new recipes to try. So, you know what will happen, right? I'll print this, put it on my desk in case I remember to put it in the folder of recipes I mean to type into my recipe program on the get the idea. From one recipe saver to another, thanks!

Posted by Lydia on July 27, 2006 at 2:16 PM

Lydia, I recently created a new folder in my bookmarks simply called "Recipes" for all the ones I'd like to get back to at some point. When I'm stuck for an idea for dinner, I sometimes remember to look there!

And as I was about to throw away the page with the bean salad recipe, I came across this one and thought of you:

Tarragon bean soup

250 g white haricot beans
2-3 bay leaves
thick slice of butter or Tbs of olive oil
5 spring onions
a medium carrot
a clove of garlic
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
10 g fresh tarragon

Soak the beans overnight, drain and then bring to a boil in water with a bay leaf and a little olive oil. Cook for an hour or so or until the beans are soft.

Warm the butter or oil in a heavy based pan. Roughly chop the spring onions and stew in the oil a few minutes. Add the finely diced carrots and garlic and cook for another five minutes. Add the beans to the onion and carrot mixture, pour in the stock and leave to simmer with salt, black pepper, half the tarragon and the remaining bay leaves for a good half hour, until the beans begin to collapse. Ad the rest of the tarragon and blitz in a blender till smooth and thick. Season to taste!

Posted by Meg in Paris on July 28, 2006 at 1:32 PM

Thanks, Meg. The soup sounds luscious!

Posted by lydia on July 28, 2006 at 2:43 PM

I m ready to pay you any cost for those piles and scraps of papers, i mean recipes.

Posted by Johnpaul on July 29, 2006 at 2:28 AM

I love salmon and am always looking for new ways to fix it. i WILL try this in the near future, I promise.

Posted by Dave on July 30, 2006 at 9:37 PM