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Author Notes: I've prepared a few variations on this combination over the past 2 or 3 years, largely for catered events, such as summer weddings. Sometimes I'll add some roasted red peppers for color, or leave them out if they're against the law for anyone. Grilled asparagus makes a nice stand-in for the green beans, but its affordable season tends to be brief, especially where I am now. The same goes for grilled artichoke hearts - fantastic, but short affordable season, even to the wholesale trade. In the end, there's something here for everyone.
Especially me. I make my very own version to please myself year-round. It travels well, it holds beautifully in the refrigerator as well as on a picnic blanket. Serve it by itself as a side. Wrap it in leaves of sweet butter lettuce and serve alongside slices of proscuitto or heavenly cured ham à la thirschfeld (http://www.bonafidefarmfood.com/http___www.bonafidefarmfood.com/Bona_fide_Farm_Food/Bona_fide_Farm_Food.html) . With barbecued brisket sandwiches, oh my yes. And I'd love to come along, thanks for the invite.
Its beauty as a picnic or camping or backyard bbq salad is that not only is it safe to serve without constant refrigeration, but also its flavors are genuinely better at room or outdoor temperatures. The combination of gently tart champagne vinegar and honeydew in the mignonette highlights the brightness of all the flavors. The entire salad can certainly be prepared a day in advance. In fact it will probably be better if it is.
This is for my sweet Greek friend, Madeleine, who graciously shared her San Francisco home with me, and who every summer brought me an enormous tin (and I mean enormous, like 2 feet tall and 12 inches wide) of fresh Feta cheese in its delicate brine, straight from the motherland. I never ran out of opportunities to incorporate it into foods, nor of people who loved it. And I'll never forget hearing you pronounce Kalama-tttt-a. —boulangere
Serves 10, or fewer with leftovers
- 3 pounds red or Yukon gold, or fingerling potatoes, well washed
- 1 tablespoon sea or kosher salt
- 1 pound French style green beans
- 1 red onion, fine dice
- 1 cup kalamata olives, rough chopped
- 1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
- 6 ounces champagne vinegar
- 1/2 cup puréed honeydew melon
- 2 shallots, minced ( 3 if they're small)
- 1 generous tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
- Sea or kosher salt and pepper to taste
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- Cut the potatoes into 1/2" cubes, no smaller. Place them in a pot with cold water to cover and add a tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to an active simmer. Cook just until they can be easily pierced with a sharp knife, about 10-15 minutes. Drain into a colander, then set the colander in your original pan and place both under cold running water, gently moving the potatoes around with your hands until they are completely cool through to the center. Remove the colander, and leave the potatoes to continue draining. When finished, transfer them to a large mixing bowl. Retain the colander for the beans.
- Refill the same pot with water and bring to a boil. While waiting, wash your beans. Set a bowl of ice water right next to the stove. When the water comes to a boil, add the beans all at once. As soon as the water returns to the boil, set a timer for 2 minutes. You only want to blanch the beans long enough to break down a bit of their toughness, but not their wonderful crunch. After 2 minutes, use tongs to lift the beans out of the pot and drop into the ice water. Let them cool completely through. When ready, transfer them to the colander in the sink and allow to drain.
- Meanwhile, dice the red onion and add it to the bowl containing the potatoes. Chop the green beans into 2-inch lengths and add them to the same bowl. Drain and roughly chop the Kalamatas and add them also. Add the Feta cheese. Gently toss to blend using a rubber spatula.
- Using a mortar and pestle (a wooden one works best), pound the chunks of melon to a juicy pulp. Alternatively, dice them very fine with a knife, then smash on your board using a fork. Transfer every bit of pulp and juice to a small bowl. Add the champagne vinegar, shallots, tarragon, salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Whisk to blend, pour over salad contents and gently toss together. Allow salad to sit for 15 minutes, then gently toss once more. Let sit for 15 minutes more, toss again, and taste for seasoning, adjusting as you wish. Refrigerate until ready to pack up and go. Don't be surprised if you find yourself dipping into it for *just one more taste.*
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Picnic Dish