Thursday, August 2, 2012

How Many Ways Can You Dice a Tomato?
What’s cooking? Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto

In the cookbook-developing, recipe-writing, food-blogging world, it’s generally accepted that if you change three ingredients in a recipe, you can call it yours. If you’re writing about another person’s recipe – in print or online – you should give attribution, noting that the recipe is “adapted from so-and-so,” but that also means you have to actually adapt (rewrite) the procedures, to reflect your own production of the dish. And even if you change the ingredients and rewrite the procedures, it’s considered gracious and greatly appreciated if you note that the recipe is “inspired by so-and-so.”

So with that etiquette in mind, here’s a little story.

In the process of working on this week’s post, I went back to Michael Natkin’s Herbivoracious blog, where I remembered seeing a nice salad of new potatoes and green beans with arugula pesto. (He also has a book by the same name.) How hard can this be? I thought to myself, googling Natkin’s name and the ingredients in the recipe. Lo and behold, the Google machinery churned out a full page and a half of newsletters, blogs and Pinterest pages – all with reincarnations of this same recipe, and all having “adapted” theirs from Mr. Natkin. The first of these actually “Reprinted with permission,” which appeared to be a word-for-word reproduction of the recipe from Natkin's book, also named Herbivoracious. And near the end of the list was a blogger who posted her recipe as “adapted” from one of the previously listed adapters, and any reference to Michael Natkin had disappeared entirely. Too bad, Michael.

For all the ridiculousness of countless food writers and bloggers huddling over their computers, trying to reword the directions to sound somehow like their own, there’s a good reason for this particular flurry of attention: the recipe makes a delicious salad – bright and fresh-tasting, with the peppery, garlicky flavors of the arugula pesto – that’s easy to assemble.

Haricots verts (left) versus green beans.
I like this dish especially now that both haricots verts and fingerling potatoes have shown up at the farmers’ market. For a salad, I much prefer the size and tenderness of the haricots verts, although you’ll notice in the photo that I had to use baby new potatoes instead of fingerlings. And, as it happens, the Kitchen Goddess has had her own arugula pesto recipe for years, so that recipe makes its appearance here in lieu of Michael Natkin’s.

Fingerling potatoes
Around and around the recipe goes, and where it stops, nobody knows. Someday soon, somewhere out in cyberspace, you might find my version has inspired or been adapted by some other cook. You might find it, but I’m not going looking.

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Arugula Pesto
Adapted from and inspired by Michael Natkin’s book/blog, Herbivoracious

For the vegetables:
1 pound fingerling potatoes (or baby new potatoes – no larger than a golf ball)
½ pound haricots verts, halved and stem end trimmed

For the arugula pesto:
2 cups arugula leaves (well packed)
6 Tablespoons pignoli nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons sour cream
1½ Tablespoons lemon juice
finely grated peel from one orange (about 2 teaspoons)

1. Make the arugula pesto. Place arugula, pignoli nuts, garlic, cheese and salt in a food processor and pulse until they are combined into a grainy paste. With the processor running, add olive oil in a slow stream and continue processing until well combined. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Remove to a bowl and refrigerate for an hour before serving. Kitchen Goddess note: This recipe makes much more pesto than you need for the salad, but refrigerate the rest – or freeze it – for another occasion. Arugula pesto is a little too bitter for pasta, but great as a crudité dip for endive, carrots, red or yellow bell peppers, asparagus, etc. And it really brightens up scrambled eggs or a frittata.

2. Cook the vegetables. Put the potatoes (skins on) in a large saucepan with heavily salted water – as salty as the ocean – to cover 1-2 inches above the potatoes. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a paring knife. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and return the water to a rolling boil. Add the haricots verts, and while they are cooking – only about 3 minutes, so hurry! – get a large bowl of ice water. Once the beans taste tender-crisp, plunge them briefly (about 30 seconds) into the ice bath – long enough to stop the cooking but not so long that they lose all their heat. Lay the beans out on paper towels to dry while you cut the warm potatoes into slices about ¼-inch thick.

3. With a couple of wooden spoons, gently toss the vegetables with ¼ cup of the pesto, add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Serves 4.


  1. I made this the other night. It was SO good! My husband and I polished off the entire bowl ;)

    1. So glad to hear it, Sarah! This is indeed a winner.