Summer is in full swing here at TBE. In our continuing quest to provide readers with the Boursa’s most comprehensive quality-of-life coverage, we’ve created another program of food, music and advice for your enjoyment.
First up we’ve got a recipe for Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans from “The Smitten Kitchen,” parenthetically annotated by TBE.
Serves 10 (TBE’s version, using slightly less potatoes and green beans than the recipe calls for, served 2.5, but was a main course rather than a side dish.)
4 pounds small Yukon gold or red-skinned potatoes, quartered (TBE used the regular old potatoes available at any greengrocer. However we did see new potatoes for sale at “The Vegetable Spot,” referenced and mapped in this post, if you’re ambitious.)
1 pound green beans, cut into one-inch segments
1 to 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
2 bunches of basil (about one ounce each)
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil (The garlic, basil and olive oil are only for if you are making your own pesto, which will be difficult if you don’t have a mortar and pestle or food processor. Before we were bequeathed a food processor, TBE used to use Sacla Italia-brand Wild Rocket Pesto, which is tastier than their traditional, basil-based version. It is available at both Seoudi and Alfa.)
6 tablespoons (or more to taste) mild vinegar, such as champagne, white wine or a white balsamic (We used a small amount of red grape vinegar, which worked fine.)
1/4 cup chopped green onions (scallions) (Skipped this since they weren’t on hand, though they are easy to find in Alfa or at some vegetable markets. Also note they are not included in the preparation below.)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (Snoobr are available in the Bab al-Louq market. If you go in through the grotty entrance on Falaki Street and walk straight ahead about 15 paces there will be a spice shop on your left. They cost LE150/kilo, but LE10-15 worth should be enough.)
Parmesan cheese to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, about 10 minutes. (Ours took way longer, perhaps about 20-25 minutes) Add beans; cook four minutes longer. (We cooked the beans separately, which turned out to be a fortuitous decision.) Drain well and let cool, then transfer potatoes and beans to a large bowl. (TBE prefers warm potato salad, so didn’t let them cool too thoroughly.)
Meanwhile, discard the stems from the basil and wash and dry the leaves. Puree them in a food processor with garlic, drizzling in enough olive oil that it gets saucy. Season the pesto with salt and pepper. [Alternately, you can swap this step with one cup of prepared pesto, but seriously, I think you’ll be missing out.] (See note above)
Toss the beans and potatoes with pesto. Stir in vinegar and pine nuts and season with salt, pepper and/or additional vinegar to taste. Finally, shave some wide flecks of parmesan over the salad with a vegetable peeler.
Serve immediately, or make this up to two hours in advance. It can be stored at room temperature.
A note on pine nuts:
Pine nuts have a special place in TBE’s collective heart for a number of reasons. Of course they are delicious. They also have an awesome name in Arabic (صنوبر) that appears on TBE’s hypothetical list of top 100 Arabic words. Related to this reason, every time TBE thinks about snoobr they bring to mind Abdel Halim’s song “Tooba,” with the titular “tooba” replaced with “snoobr.” It isn’t an exact fit but does allow one to say snoobr a lot. The video, like the song, is really great.
By a simple twist of fate this excellent blog, which translates song lyrics from Arabic to English, just posted Tooba, a most delicious coincidence.
An errant letter to a long-dead advice columnist recently landed in TBE’s mailbag. Since we have some expertise in the question submitted, we decided to answer it in hopes that the questioner, a certain A. Flaneur, somehow stumbles upon it.
Some of my friends walk so fast in the summertime and we all end up sweating a lot and I hate walking fast on principle, since it inhibits conversation and observation. What should I do?
Dear Ms. or Mr. Flaneur,
Fast walkers are verily annoying. I would suggest you start by giving them a lesson in a little science we like to call biophysics: It may seem like a good idea to walk fast, especially in the summertime, because doing so will allow you to get somewhere cooler faster. However, your friends might be surprised to know that walking slower will allow you to stay cooler by reducing your heart rate and other vital statistics. If the scientific method does not work, you should probably just lag behind and amble at a leisurely, not to say stately, pace.