- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Paris is a city where food writers don’t have to look far to find culinary inspiration. During our visits each summer, my husband does his scholarly research and I do my own, shopping in the open-air food markets, visiting every patisserie within walking distance of our rented apartment and poring over French cookery magazines and cookbooks.

And, of course, there are countless small, inexpensive restaurants to explore, where the chefs tend to be creative with seasonal food.

My endeavors often spark ideas for recipes that appear in this column. That’s certainly true of the one that follows. Last summer, for example, during a period of unusually hot weather, we ate out frequently to escape the heat in our un-air-conditioned apartment.

The chefs did their part to counter the 90-degree weather by preparing chilled soups or delicious composed salads as first courses. I opted for the salads every time and noticed that they often included smoked seafood. Smoked scallops, salmon and trout were the most popular choices.

Recently, I was trying to think of an easy starter for a summer dinner party when I remembered the smoked-seafood salads I enjoyed last year and came up with my own creation. I combined smoked trout, tender green beans and cucumbers, then tossed them in a mustard vinaigrette dressing. Chopped fresh dill made a tempting garnish.

I’ve served these salads twice at family meals and am now ready to use them for a dinner party. They make an ideal dish for summer, when most of us want to keep cooking to a minimum. The beans can be blanched and patted dry several hours ahead and the cucumbers and trout sliced in advance.

The dressing, which takes only minutes to whisk together, can be prepared a day ahead. At serving time, only a quick assembly is necessary.

These colorful salads make a stylish beginning to a warm-weather meal and look as if they take more time to prepare than the modest effort required. Although they make a fine opener, you could also offer the salads along with bowls of chilled soup as an entree for a light supper or lunch.

Tender green bean and smoked trout salad

1½ pounds tender young green beans or haricots verts

Kosher salt

½ pound smoked trout (see note)

1 large cucumber

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

6 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons chopped dill

Trim the green beans, cutting off ends on the diagonal. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add 1½ tablespoons salt and the beans. Cook, uncovered, until the beans are bright green and just tender, 6 to 7 minutes for very tender young beans, about 5 minutes for haricots verts.

Drain the beans in a colander, and rinse them under cold running water. Pat dry. The beans can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Wrap in a clean kitchen towel and then in a plastic bag; refrigerate.

Remove and discard the skin from the trout fillets. Slice trout in half lengthwise, then cut each half on the diagonal into ½-inch-wide strips. The trout can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Peel the cucumber; halve lengthwise; and, using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut the halves into 1/4-inch-thick slices. The cucumber can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Place vinegar, mustard and ½ teaspoon salt in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Whisk well to blend, then whisk in olive oil. The dressing can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and leave at cool room temperature. Whisk well before using.

Place the beans in a large bowl, and toss them with half the dressing to coat lightly. Taste and season beans with salt, if needed. Divide beans evenly, and place a bundle on each of six salad plates.

Sprinkle the cucumbers lightly with salt, and add them and the sliced trout to the same bowl you used for the beans.

Add the remaining dressing; toss gently. Garnish the top of beans on each plate with the cucumber and trout mixture.

Season each serving generously with several grindings of black pepper, and sprinkle each with a teaspoon of dill. Serve at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Kendall Brook Duck Trap Farms is a purveyor of excellent smoked seafood, including smoked trout and a flavorful smoked pepper trout. You can use either in this recipe, but if you use the peppered variety, omit the pepper in the recipe. Their products are available in many specialty and grocery stores around the country.


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