Friday, August 1, 2008

Purple Reign

As I mentioned in a previous post, there was once a time when I feared all purple foods. But no worries, I have gotten over my phobia to such a degree that I now often seek out and buy purple food just for the novelty of it all. It's great to finally be able to add another dimension of color, flavor and texture to my dishes with these poor misunderstood ingredients. Who knew that the pickled beets of the 80's and the ghastly purple potato soup of the 90's could have such an effect on an impressionable young girl?

Never mind the past, because I've made progress. No longer do I run screaming from deep purple fruits and veggies, or cry at the sight of borscht. In fact, just the other day
I was intrigued by a mysterious row of brown paper bags at the small farmers market in the lobby of my office building. Only the plum colored pointed ends of their contents were visible, but there was something alluring about about their darkness amidst the shadows of the bag. A better look inside revealed what appeared to be purple string beans. A mere few months ago, I would have passed out then cried under my desk for an hour, but on this day I was so jazzed at the sight of something new and fun that I bought them immediately.

Some quick research on these unusual little guys proved that they are in fact quite common, can grow pretty much everywhere, and that they're actually not all that unusual. I was happy to learn ahead of time that they actually lose their dark pigment while cooking, so if you want them to be purple you have to eat them raw (they're green on the inside though, which is really pretty). That was no problem for me since I love raw snap peas as a snack, and have been known to down half a bag of green beans before they're even cooked. I decided to compromise for the salad I was making and blanched half of them and left the other half raw. Besides the color contrast there was also a great mouthfeel to the contrasting textures and flavors. I still had a few mini-heirloom tomatoes so I sliced those up and made a citrus-green olive dressing to pour over the salad. The dish was delicious and super refreshing on a crazy hot evening. So if you have a weird food phobia, get over it! You never know what you might be missing.

Purple String Bean Salad with Citrus-Olive Vinaigrette

2 cups purple string beans
2-3 miniature heirloom tomatoes (or 1 large), cut into wedges
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup roughly chopped pimiento stuffed green olives
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
extra virgin olive oil (1/4 - 1/2 a cup)
pinch of salt

1. Blanche half of the string beans in boiling salted water until tender-crisp. Remove to a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking.

2. Meanwhile, combine lemon juice, orange juice, lemon zest, orange zest, olives, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil until vinaigrette forms.

3. Toss cooked beans, raw beans and tomatoes in a bowl with half of the vinaigrette. Plate and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Enjoy!


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