Our home might be mistaken for a jungle, as there are plants everywhere: a ficus tree in the living room that looks longingly out onto the street, a fern in the office fluffing her leaves like a true diva, a palm plant threatening to poke you in the eye, and lots more…not to mention the bamboo shoots that have taken over the bathroom. Being surrounded by so much greenery is instantly calming, and particularly soothing to the eyes during long and dark Canadian winters. Similarly, a pile of green on the dinner plate is most welcome: a refreshingly bright respite from the winter blues (or greys).
Outside all of the virtues of local eating, it is days of the year like these that I am very grateful for the miracle of modern transport to bring crisp Californian produce to a barren wintery hinterland. This particular dish is inspired by one in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem.
Green beans and sugar snap peas warm salad
serves 4-6 as a start or side dish
3-4 large handfuls of sugar snap peas
2-3 large handfuls of green beans
1 cup whole hazelnuts
2 mandarin oranges (or 1 navel orange)
black and white sesame seeds (optional)
First, trim the vegetables if they need trimming. I used frozen green beans (blasphemy!) because I had them – use fresh if possible, but sometimes I find that green beans in the winter are very fibrous and woody. Heat a generous tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying or saute pan over medium-high heat, and throw in the sugar snap peas and green beans. Cover loosely with a lid so they steam a little, and stir occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small heavy pan (preferably cast iron), roast the hazelnuts over medium-high heat until lightly coloured. Pour into a mortar and pestle into smaller pieces. When the vegetables are cooked through but still have a little bite, take them off the heat and add the pestled hazelnuts, the zest of the mandarin oranges, and a dribble of sesame oil. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds (if using), and squeeze over some of the mandarin’s juices just before serving.
This would go nicely beside some roasted chicken to make a sturdy dinner, but I could eat this on its own, straight from the pan, standing over the stove. The hazelnuts I used happened to be picked up from a San Francisco farmer’s market during a road trip this past summer, and stored in the freezer, waiting to be brought out as a bittersweet reminder of warmer days.