I’ll be the first to admit that as much as I love cooking with fresh veggies and herbs, there’s tons for me to still learn. It wasn’t too many years back that my entire trivia team was stumped by the question “What herb is the basis of a bearnaise sauce?” There were actually a few “foodies” on the team, so my embarrassment was mitigated some. The star of bearnaise sauce, it turned out, was tarragon, and I chalked that up to it being one of those herbs that’s used to flavor things like chicken, eggs, fish and steak. Stuff truly out of my repertoire
This past summer however, all that changed. I was at my friend Mel’s graduation party — Ph.D. in neuroscience, no less — which was hosted by another friend, Abby. And, boy, what a spread! Platters full of salads, grilled things and cupcakes completely covered an enormous dining room table. And it was there that I came face to face with the bean salad THAT CHANGED MY LIFE.
Seriously, I kind of sat and ate and moaned at a table in the yard. “What is this? Tell me everything!” I begged my hostess. Abby just kind of shrugged, saying it was the simplest of salads, just stuff from her pantry. “But what is it I’m tasting?” I asked when not moaning and stuffing my face.
“Just a vinaigrette with some fresh tarragon.” Tarragon, that devilish herb, my trivia team’s downfall, had come back to haunt me. And thus began my love affair — really, lust affair — with this aromatic “King of herbs.” I got hold of a bunch of tarragon and no joke, made this salad no less than nine times in a six week period. This is one of those salads that tastes great on the third day, as the anise undertones of the tarragon really seep into the beans.
The bean salad I’m obsessed with. (Abby tells me that it’s Fosters Market in Chapel Hill, NC, that really deserves the credit for this one.)
I think the thing that I love most about this salad, I mean, aside from it being so so so delicious, is that it is made of things that I always have on hand in my pantry. Some might find my own version too full of its ingredients, so I actively encourage you to experiment until you find amounts that suit your palate best.
One can of little white beans (Or a cup of dried beans, soaked overnight)
Half a red onion, sliced into rings and roasted*
*Abby also introduced me to another fantastic idea, which is roasting the onions to take the bite out of them. I’ve found my happy medium tossing them into my toaster oven set at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Feel free to play with times for that as well.
Half a can of artichoke hearts
For the Tarragon Vinaigrette
Four tablespoons olive oil
Two tablespoons red wine vinegar
A clove of garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon jarred mustard (for emulsifying)
Two heaping tablespoons tarragon
Pinch of salt
Open can of beans, pour into a colander, and give them a good rinse (or cook beans according to package — it should take about 7 minutes in a pressure cooker)
Slice the half onion and roast in oven for 10 or so minutes
Quarter the artichoke hearts
Slice up the pepperocini into rings
Toss all together in a bowl
Place all dressing ingredients in small glass jar, give it a shake, and pour it on the bean salad
Yes, that’s all.
Do you have a favorite recipe for tarragon?