Haricots Verts Salad

(serves 4)

  • 1 pound fresh haricots verts, ends trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus extra to taste
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup well-washed arugula
  • 1/8 pound pecorino Toscano cheese
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and add the haricots verts and 2 teaspoons of salt. Simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but crisp. Drain the beans and chill. In small bowl, mix the oil with the vinegar and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper. Toss the arugula with 1 tablespoon of the dressing, and the haricots verts with the remaining dressing.

Divide the beans among 4 plates and top each pile with a few arugula leaves. Finish each salad with some of the shaved pecorino and serve.

Parmigiano Reggiano

Papa and I used to go once a week to Civago near Modena to but fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano. I loved the drive, passing the dairy cows in the fields, the great green pastures, the silos. That farmer, I remember, had the best Parmigiano-nutty and grainy at the same time-and butter better than Nonna Maria’s. But the image that sticks most in my mind was when he’d tell Papa how he was planning to take the Parmigiano rounds “to the bank.” I thought he was taking them to the center in Modena and depositing them in the Banca Popolare in exchange for money. In fact, he was taking the cheese “to the bank” to be aged.

Good Parmigiano is expensive, but you can’t cook Italian food without it. Buy the cheese in a chunk, and store it in the refrigerator wrapped in a damp cloth or in an airtight container. For the freshest taste, grate the cheese just before eating. Look for the Parmigiano-Reggiano stamped into the crust of the cheese. Some people prefer Grana Padano, which is more moist than Parmigiano-Reggiano and doesn’t have as much bite. (Other substitutes are American Parmesan and Argentinean Reggianito.)