Week 12 - Sometimes it's all about the sauce

[Posted by Ruth]

Have you ever made a sauce you liked so much that you had to fight the urge to run through your neighborhood wielding  a spoonful of it and shouting, "Try this sauce; it'll change your life!"?  I came pretty close last night.  We got a bag of bright green, crisp, fresh green beans in our farm share box on Thursday and I wanted to do something special with them that would make them a meal we could take to the Levitt Pavillion last night.  I found a creamy nut sauce recipe in Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" but it called for a cup of heavy cream and 4 T of butter which was way too heavy for my taste (and my thighs).  I lightened it up a bit, made a few tweaks and ended up with a sauce that I think I'd like to put on everything.  It was subtle and lush.  Put over the beans and finished in the oven for a quick gratin, it worked well for us as a main course and will also serve as a hearty side dish to a simple meal with chicken or fish.

Green Bean Gratin with Creamy Nut Sauce

Creamy Nut Sauce

2/3 cup whole, unblanched almonds
1/3 cup walnuts
3 T butter
1 cup skim milk (more or less for desired consistency)
Salt, pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg
Optional: 1 tsp of instant blending (Wondra) flour

Combine the almonds and walnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.  Add 2 T of the softened butter to the nuts and continue to process until the mixture forms a paste that is as smooth as possible.

Melt the remaining butter in a small, nonstick, pan, add the nut mixture and cook over low to low/med heat, stirring constantly as if you were making a flour/butter roux.  Cook like this for a few minutes, until the nuts are fragrant which means they have browned slightly.  Gradually whisk in the milk and heat to the point of a gentle simmer.  Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.  At this point, if you want a thicker sauce you can sprinkle in the Wondra flour and whisk for a few minutes while simmering until it reaches the consistency you want.  Note: if you are using the sauce for the gratin below, it will thicken a bit more upon baking.

Green Bean Gratin

3/4 lb fresh green beans, ends nipped off, cut in 1/2 if very long
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T minced onion
Butter or olive oil for pan

1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Creamy nut sauce, recipe above

Preheat oven to 400.  Have a baking dish that will fit the beans ready -no need to grease it.

Heat oil or butter in pan and gently saute garlic and onion until fragrant and beginning to be translucent.  Add the beans, stir to coat with oil and continue cooking a few minutes.  Turn heat to low, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the beans are tender/crisp.

Toss the beans with the nut sauce, place in baking dish and top with the Parmesan cheese.  Bake uncovered for 15 minutes, until mixture bubbles and the cheese has browned a bit on top.  Serve hot from the oven, or at room temperature.

The mixture of almonds and walnuts in the sauce was a happy accident.  I had two small partial bags of nuts I wanted to use up so I combined the two.  They both added a different note to the sauce and it's definitely worth having them both on hand.

Here, by the way, is this week's haul.  We have our first cantaloupe.  Stacia from Stone Gardens Farm wanted to know how we all liked the cantaloupe and if she should grow them again next year.  Our vote is YES!  The melon was perfectly ripe and delicious.


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