For a few years in the 90s I had the opportunity to live in Paris. I lived in the 13th Arrondisement in the animated but not very fashionable Quartier de la Gare and rented a big beautiful apartment in a Belle Epoque building on rue Regnault. It had wide plank wooden floors painted white, a white and green Ikea kitchen and an iconic wrap around balcony with ornate wrought iron railings that unfortunately overlooked the Paris peripherique (translation: beltway). Oh well, can’t win ’em all.
At that time I had a boyfriend who was living about an hour south, in Tours. Cesario was native Portuguese, immigrating to the Loire valley from northern Portugal with his family when he and his brother were toddlers. After graduating from Universite Francois Rabelais, he stayed in Tours and was just starting his career as a computer systems consultant when we met. He didn’t speak English so we communicated in French, a second language for us both. While this necessity did wonders for my French language skills, it had the opposite effect on our relationship and was the root cause of many a spectacular (and in retrospect hilarious) disaster. But I digress.
On most Fridays during the year or so we were together, Cesario would drive up to Paris for “Le Weekend.” Like a lot of European men, he was quite a foodie. There were stories, for example, of camping trips where he and his friends would bring along a bag of Herbes de Provence and a bottle of olive oil to prepare the snails with wild garlic they harvested along the way. So we had this in common.
One of our customary activities during les weekends was to hit the Saturday market at the Place Jeanne d’Arc , located a few blocks from my apartment. After a morning there, we’d go to a cafe and relax with a “tomate” (pastis with grenadine) or a kir (white wine, creme de cassis and lemon twist) to
argue about discuss the evening’s menu and guest list.
Cesario had a real knack for simple and delicious preparations, particularly when it came to fresh vegetables. One of my favorites was the way he prepared green beans, which also works well for asparagus and broccolini. And this week we are all in luck because you can find green beans on sale at Safeway for $1.99/pound.
While you’re preparing them, why not have a kir? Pour a glass of cold dry, crisp white wine. Make sure the wine is not in any way buttery, oaky or grassy (which leaves most Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs out of the picture). You want a clean finish and nothing that competes with the cassis. Try this with a Pinot Grigio or, my personal favorite, a Spanish Verdejo. Then add a tablespoon or two of creme de cassis and finish it off with a twist of lemon. Et voici le recette:
Green Beans du Cesario
2 pounds green beans
4 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper flakes
Clean green beans, string them and snap off the ends. Blanch them in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes, then quickly cool off in ice water. When ready to serve, heat 2 TBSP olive oil into a skillet large enough to hold all the beans. When oil is hot, add garlic and stir until garlic is translucent. Add beans, stirring until heated through. Mix in a pinch of red pepper flakes and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.