A few days ago, after a doctor’s appointment, I stumbled into a crowded east side subway station with a throbbing low blood-sugar headache. I started to unwrap the lemon-poppy-seed muffin I had just purchased when four young men started singing a motown version of “Jingle Bell Rock”. I think subway performers in this city are like green bean casserole at Christmas dinner. 90 percent of the time, you feel like you’re being forced to enjoy something you’d never choose- you’re like a hostage. Once in a while, however, you get a pleasant surprise.
I think it’s the fried onions.
These guys were pretty good- not exactly helping my headache, but not making me want to kill anyone either. Suddenly, an older woman walked over to where they were standing and started to sing with them. Everyone in the station seemed to pause for a moment. My heart leapt as I was certain that any second many others in the station would join in and I would witness my very first flash mob. But there she was, crazy street lady, singing off key, just as loud as she could manage. The Fifth Top.
I sighed and went back to my muffin. I was disappointed. I wanted a little magic. This time of year is brutal.
Shannon asked what I wanted for Christmas this year and all I could say was “I want to be seven again.” When I was seven I thought Christmas was the most incredible time of year. I thought it was so magical that I wasn’t even crushed when I found my father, standing in his tighty whities, finishing the plate of cookies I had left for Santa.
So Shannon took me to midtown to revel in Christmas chaos. We saw tourists carrying packages in one arm and screaming children in the other. We smelled overpriced chestnuts and pretzels in steamy carts pushed by angry men trying to be charming. We heard taxis honking furiously at the crowds clogging the crosswalks. But I stood in front of the holiday windows at Bergdorf’s and, for just one moment, all the chaos faded. That little seven year old girl appeared, wide eyed and amazed at what she was seeing.
Then a drunk reveler slammed into me and my cynical, grown-up self, returned. “Time to go honey.”
We boarded the 1 train and one stop later, a Mariachi band took our car hostage with “Feliz Navidad”. I considered joining in for a second…but I don’t know any of the words.
My friend Mariah requested a green bean recipe for her holiday meal (yes, I take requests!). While I was tempted to just copy the casserole recipe on the back of the fried onions can, I knew she would kill me. I think these green beans are a highlight of any meal, holiday or not.
Happy Holidays and I hope you all find your lost seven year old for a moment or two this year.
Green Beans with Sherry Vinaigrette, Toasted Walnuts
and Dried Cherries
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (can also be made with hazelnuts)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- zest from one lemon
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 pounds green beans or haricot verts, trimmed
- 3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- Heat half the olive oil in a small saute pan. Add the walnuts and toast for 3-4 minutes, being careful not to burn the nuts. Transfer the nuts to a bowl.
- Add the rest of the oil, the sherry vinegar and the shallots to the pan. Add the salt, sugar and black pepper and saute for about 5 minutes, while the shallots become tender. Let cool and then pour dressing over walnuts. (This can be done 2 hours in advance).
- Fill a large bowl with water and ice, set aside. Blanch the beans (cook green beans in a large pot of boiling salted water for about 3-4 minutes). And then shock the beans (drain and then transfer into ice water to cool). Drain and put into serving bowl (This can be done hours in advance as well, just put the blanched & shocked beans in the a resealable bag and into the fridge. Let come to room temp 1 hour before serving.
- Toss green beans with walnut dressing, lemon juice, lemon zest, mint and dried cherries and serve.
Fried onions sold separately.