In these days of wine and Roses* eating proper food can seem like a real luxury. It was with some relief then that I pulled Fields Of Greens from my bookshelf for December's Random Recipes.
We were supposed to select a recipe at random from cookbooks received last Christmas but I didn't get any (sob!) - but I remembered getting Fields Of Greens for Christmas about 17 years ago. The book, written by Annie Somerville, is a cornucopia of recipes from the celebrated Greens Restaurant in San Francisco Bay and focuses heavily on produce grown at its adjacent Green Gulch Farm. The amazing thing about is that the recipes haven't dated at all and the eat seasonal, eat local ethos is probably much more fashionable and mainstream now than it was then.
My copy, scarred by being left on an element, naturally falls open at page 314 where there are detailed instructions for making an organic sourdough starter. But the week before Christmas is no time to be nurturing a new life, so I flipped through until I found something more seasonally appropriate. As it turns out, it couldn't have been better.
Grilled New Potato Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, Summer Beans and Basil
Potato salads are high on my list of foods to avoid, thanks to the disgusting ones we had at school. I've rarely found one I liked, except the baked potato one in Forever Summer, but this one is a keeper. I didn't grill the potatoes, discovered at the last minute that we were out of beans and had hardly any basil, but it was still delicious. I think it would be perfect with cold ham on Boxing Day - it's substantial but not stodgy and full of appropriately festive colours.
The recipe below is the way I made it - to do it the Greens way you grill the potatoes after roasting them.
800g-1kg new potatoes, halved lengthways
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
250g green beans, topped and tailed
250g cherry tomatoes, halved (unless they are tiny)
a handful or two of salad greens (something crunchy, like baby cos, and peppery, like rocket)
a good handful of black olives, stoned
handful of basil leaves
2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
Heat the oven to 200C. Put the potatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
Blanch the beans in boiling salted water, then refresh under cold water and drain well.
Make the vinaigrette - put the garlic, vinegar and salt in a small screwtop jar and shake well, then add the oil and shake again. Taste and adjust sharpness as necessary.
Put the potatoes, tomatoes, beans, olives and vinaigrette in a bowl and toss gently. Arrange the salad greens on a serving platter and let the vegetable mixture tumble artistically on top. Scatter with the basil leaves and serve. Serves four.
What books are on your Christmas wishlist this year?
* I haven't really been eating Roses, I promise. But is it just me or is there a lot of chocolate around at the moment?