I've written a bit lately (okay, droned on) about the problems posed by a prolific zucchini plant. However, here in England, there is a larger problem. Runner beans. My understanding is that these lovely plants were originally cultivated by the British for their pretty red flowers. Then one day someone discovered the beans were just about edible. Fast forward a couple hundred years and you have the most popular vegetable for English amateur gardeners. It's easy to see why: like the zucchini, it is almost impossible to mess up. I bought a half dozen plants myself earlier this year and planted them uncomfortably close in pots. I gave them minimal sunshine (because we are renting, I have placed my container garden on the side of the house that has a bit of pavement, to save the grass) and supports that were about three feet too short. And I had so many beans that I ended up freezing quite a few bags. And they are still arriving each week in my box from the local organic farm. I like beans. But even I am struggling a bit to use them all up before the next lot arrives.
So today's lunch was my way of finishing up the runner beans from last week's box before my delivery arrives this afternoon - no doubt with another portion of runner beans. It was filling, surprisingly tasty and a great use for runner beans, a bit like a pared down salad niçoise. And unlike a true salade niçoise, this one came in at 1.5 WeightWatchers point per satisfying savory serving. Which, given the fact that I had friends over for drinks last night and went way over my WW limit on wine, cheese and chips, is a very good thing.
English Salad Niçoise
Runner beans - as many as you think you can eat
2 small tomatoes
1/4 a small onion, finely chopped (a shallot would be even nicer here, but an onion was all I had to hand)
1/2 a small can of tuna, drained and crumbled
chives, for a garnish
For the dressing:
1 heaping teaspoon of mustard
1 1/2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dried tarragon (or to taste - it can be quite a strong flavor for some)
Wash the runner beans and trim the ends. When trimming - especially on the long woody ones - try to stop cutting just short of the other side of the bean and pull down, to remove the fibrous stringy bit that resides on either side of the bean. If you can't pull the strings easily, you might want to use a vegetable peeler to remove it by force. If you leave the strings on, you will find the beans unpleasant to eat, to say the least, and end up with a mouthful of fibre. Cut the beans in one inch pieces and steam them for 5-7 minutes, or until they smell good and have gone bright green. Refresh them under cold water briefly after removing them from the heat to stop the cooking process and retain the beautiful color. This vegetable needs all the help it can get! While the beans are cooking, wash and cube the tomatoes and mince the onion. Make the dressing as follows: mix the vinegar and mustard thoroughly, then slowly add the olive oil, whisking as you go to form an emulsion. Stir in the tarragon and taste for seasoning. A bit of salt and pepper will help enormously to liven the flavors. Toss the beans and tomatoes and onions with the dressing, reserving about half. Sprinkle the tuna over the beans and dress with the rest of the dressing. Garnish with the chives. A healthy, filling, delicious lunch in less than 15 minutes!
And now I have room in the fridge for some more runner beans - oh joy!