Friday, June 15, 2007

Haricots Verts - The Ultimate Amandine

Consider yourself warned. This recipe is swimming in so much fat, it can certainly be considered a hazard to one’s health. How can something so skinny be so fattening? Naturally slim, romantic and elegant, even when mature, France’s answer to string beans, haricots verts, can easily go it alone without any sauce, salt or slick, clinging to its green and delicate complexion.

The French, however, weren’t having any of it. Creator and champion of one of the world’s greatest cuisines, France knows how to gild a lily. Forays into nouvelle cuisine/cuisine minceur and molecular gastronomy notwithstanding, French cooking will likely be forever known by its grandaddy of disciplines, the classic haute cuisine. Beyond its exacting and elaborate methods, haute cuisine’s heavy reliance on butter, cream, oils and animal fats are the stuff the first famous chefs were made of.

It’s not that the average American diet isn’t guilty of its own hyper-embellishments. Bread really isn’t bread in these parts unless you lavishly, and slavishly, grease it with butter, cheese, mayonnaise, or nut spreads. If you aren’t using a knife to wax up your slice, you are probably dipping a tip of it into a small bowl of olive oil, infused with herbs or other aromatics. Americans are also quick with the sauces and salad dressings, smothering our healthy but “boring” vegetables into slow-moving masses so unrecognizable they could audition for a role in “The Blob.” Anyone who has been subjected to the Thanksgiving cult classic, the Green Bean Casserole, can testify to my claim. The French, however, use a lighter touch for this vegetable, though the luxurious caloric count would beg to differ.

Haricots Verts Amandine is an extremely easy recipe which Americans long ago have welcomed as their own, even if we are using local varieties of green beans or dolling it up with the additions of bacon, pearl onions or mushrooms. What everyone does agree on is the liberal use of butter and almonds. Substituting much of the butter with mono-saturated sweet almond oil reduces some cardio risks, but none of the calories. Will this discourage you from preparing this simple, sophisticated and satisfying dish? I’ll wager not. Fat chance.

The Ultimate Amandine - My own recipe


1 pound haricots verts or other green string beans
1/2 cup slivered, chopped or sliced skinless almonds
3 tablespoons sweet almond oil (culinary oil ONLY)
1 tablespoon butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground white pepper
Juice of 1/2 lemon


Heat large pot of water to boiling. Meantime, wash and trim ends from beans. (For decorative purposes, you can trim the ends by splitting them on the diagonal, called "frenching." This does, however, create some waste.) Blanche beans in the boiling water for exactly 3 minutes. Promptly remove beans to a bowl of cold water to stop cooking and retain color, which will now be a vivid green.)

In a large skillet (cast iron works best), toast almonds over medium-high heat until they are somewhat browned. Do not fully brown them at this point. Turn off heat. Mix oil, butter, salt and dash of white pepper together before pouring into hot skillet. Stir the almonds often until fully browned. Turn heat back on to medium-low. Add beans, gently turning until well coated with oil/butter mixture and warm to the touch. Squeeze lemon over beans. Remove from skillet and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a side dish. --

[Health note: Much of the fat can be cut by roasting the blanched beans with the partially-browned almonds at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes, turning them once. Lightly oil or spray non-stick coating on a cookie sheet before arranging ingredients on top.]

This post is being submitted to Rachel of Rachel's Bite, who is hosting Weekend Herb Blogging for Kalyn Denny of Kalyn's Kitchen, the creator of this food blogging event.


Lucy said...

That green tangle of beans is so beautifully arranged. The crunch of beans between your front teeth, picked straight from the plant and eaten greedily before you've reached the kitchen door is, for me, a signal that summer has arrived.

Almond oil - such a wonderful idea! Long for summer and bean season again. Green and good, with an excellent combination of textures Susan. Very elegant.

sra said...

Looks lovely, I have a small bottle of almond oil - now I know what to do with it!

Kalyn said...

This sounds so wonderful. The almond oil is an inspired touch. Just delicious.

Anh said...

Yummy! I love anything with fresh beans, so this will be an excellent side dish!

Nora B. said...

Susan, your recipe sounds delicious. I like toasted almond on steamed vegies. I feel guilty if I cook with more than 1 tbspn of oil, but have no qualms about layering butter on my bread - yes I am a hypocrite :-)

Mishmash ! said...

Susan, its always refreshing to read your notes....your perspectives ....:)I would love to have this one with a tender and moist piece of grilled chicken :)


Patricia Scarpin said...

Susan, this is magnificent - I love vegetables and I don't think they're boring, ever.
My mom use to give me a tomato or pieces of raw carrot most of times I complained about being hungry between meals. I grew up on these beauties. :D

I'll pretend not to notice the calories and give this a try as soon as I find the correct almond oil.

Shaun said...

Susan - I have never used almond oil. In fact I have not used any nut oils, though I have often thought of getting one of the walnut variety for salads. Perhaps almond would be better as I prefer almonds to walnuts.

I love the spritz of lemon at the end, the traditional touch to dress haricots verts that interacts with your almond twist.

So, are you giving Patricia Wells a run for her money? Two vegetable posts in a row...

Simona said...

Fagiolini! I planted some in my garden but in the meantime I bought some yesterday to cook soon. I think the pairing with slivered almonds is delicious. Now I just have to find some almond oil...

Christina said...

And aren't the beans getting wonderful right now? Crisp, sweet, and so beautifully green-flavored?

Great post.

Susan said...

Lucy - Those beans pretty much tangled themselves. That was a fun shot. The almond oil wasn't easy to find, but I'd gotten it in my craw, so that was it. The chase was on. Thanks always for your dear comments.
Thanks, Sra. Was the almond oil one of your impulsive purchases that helped burst the seams of your cupboards? ; )
Thank you, Kalyn. This dish is extremely low carb, appropriate for the South Beach, I think.
Hello, Anh! How ARE you? Frozen or canned beans really can't compare. Good to see you.
Hi, Nora. I would not call you a hypocrite, not even in fun. Trying to strike a balance or compromise, perhaps, but aren't we all when it comes to what we eat?
I'll eat sensibly for days, but then the lure of a rich dessert cannot be ignored...or junk food.
Thanks, Shn. Grilled chicken sounds like a great, easy entree for this. You could pull the whole meal together in 20 minutes.
Patricia - Thanks for the raves. Our tastes are definitely wired in our childhoods.

I'm very emphatic about the oil being for culinary use since there are others, based on the same pressed almonds, that have cosmetic or medicinal additives. These are for topical use only. I got my oil in a supermarket after much hunting around.
Shaun - It's just a matter of preference. The almond oil is very mild. Don't expect it to be anything like almond extract for baking. I have some walnut oil for salad, too, but haven't used it yet. Nut oil is very delicate; you'll have to refrigerate after opening.

I love Wells' French Bistro cookbook. I might go 3-for-3. Stay tuned!
Simona - It is VERY hard to wait for your garden to start producing. Another few weeks and you will have an avalanche of your own veggies.
Thanks, Christina. No disrespect to the wonderful Blue Lakes, but these really rocked for flavor and color.

Lydia said...

This looks delicious, and the almond oil is a great idea. I'm always discouraged to see how much haricots vert cost in the market. I depend on the kindness of friends who grow them in their gardens.

Sandeepa said...

Looks very green and fresh, is it from your veggie patch ?

Nanditha Prabhu said...

I just love the spontaneity in ,your writing , Susan.
The glazing green on the beans! its a treat to the eyes too!
never tried almond oil earlier!
saw that you blog rolled me... thanks dear!
I have blog rolled you too:-)
its in my travel blog,

Susan said...

Lydia - They are awfully pricey, but I couldn't resist, just this once, while I wait for the home-grown beans to produce.
Sandeepa - I wish they were from the garden, but I couldn't wait. They were just too tempting, very fresh and green. You are right. In a few weeks there should be pole beans to harvest. Fingers are crossed.
Thank you very much, dear Naditha, for everything!

Truffle said...

I am swooning! Who knew you could do such wonderful things with vegetables?

Cynthia said...

I swear to you, I have never seen beans look so attractive before.

Rosa said...

This looks and sounds absolutely wonderful. I'll be rushing out to buy almond oil, though I might be tempted to use the pistachio or pecan oil I already have in the fridge!

Susan said...

Hi, Truffle. They made me swoon, too. Sometimes it isn't the drop-dead desserts that take you away.
Cynthia - I agree. They are very glamorous. Thanks.
Thanks, Rosa. I'm sure the nut oils you have on hand will work just as well with their own unique flavors. I've seen pistachio but not pecan. I'm going to have to check the shelves for that now, too. : )

Nanditha Prabhu said...

hey, you are tagged.take it up only if you will want to.

Freya and Paul said...

THat doesn't seem like so much oil and butter to me, but then I am English and a fry-up is considered healthy over here...
I love this recipe!

Susan said...

Hi, Nanditha. I will look into it when I have a chance. Thanks!
Freya - Four tablespoons of fat probably isn't all that much, but when you think how minimally caloric these beans are unadorned, I felt like I should issue a teasing disclaimer.

Jyothsna said...

Almonds have a good kind of fat and are great for skin and hair. I apply almond oil on my hair. Its the first time I've seen it used for cooking! :)

Susan said...

Welcome, Jyothsna! Yes, almond oil is very popular for cosmetic use. I like it in skin creams. That's why I've been careful to remind people to use food-grade oil which they've purchased at a grocer. Thanks for visiting. Hope to see you again.

W W said...

I have never have almond oil. I think it is time for me to try that. By the way the beans looks delish. Thank you, for sharing.

Susan said...

Thank you, WW. They really were quite tasty.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Almond oil, what a natural for this dish. Reading this and I know it has to be great tasting.

The Cooking Ninja said...

It looks good. Doesn't sound like it is loaded up with lots of oil or butter. I usually stir fry my hariot verts with a bit of oil and some finely chopped up garlic with a bit of light soya sauce. :)

Sia said...

susan, i am one among those who cant resist this kind of temptation:) after all its just a side dish;) never used almont oil in cooking. will try it out next time.

Susan said...

Thanks, Tanna. Welcome home. Sometimes the most natural pairings are the least obvious.
Welcome, Cooking Ninja! Your idea sounds wonderful. I'd like to try them stir fried next time. Thanks for the tip and for visiting. Glad you came by.
Hi, Sia. Welcome! We should all be tempted more by veggies and less by sweets. [I know. Easier said than done. : )] Good to see you. Thanks for visiting.

Jed said...

This was positively delicious. I didn't have almond oil but did have toasted pumpkin seed oil, which added a smoky savoriness that worked very well with the beans and toasted almonds. Amazing how those slivers take on flavor. Thanks for adding a permanent recipe to our recipe box!

minneville said...

Hi I just tried this recipe and it's so delicious! Never thought of lemon juice can go so great with almond and green beans!