Green Bean and Potato Salad with Mission Figs, Radishes, Walnuts, Goat Cheese and Honey Vinaigrette

Every Thursday through Monday, I anxiously await one specific email to hit my inbox.

And yes, of course it's food related.

About a year ago I had the "fantastically-delicious" pleasure of dining at Thomas Keller's restaurant, Ad Hoc, in Yountville, CA (Napa). I vividly remember the four course set menu - served family style; the casual-yet-unpretentiously-upscale cuisine with use of everything "as local as it gets" from the surrounding Northern California areas (including The French Laundry garden up the street). There was something about this place, and its food and ambiance, that I just couldn't get enough of.

But the best part about the food was that even though this was a Thomas Keller restaurant (of The French Laundry, Bouchon, and Per Se...) there was nothing stuffy, fancy, or overzealous about it: this was just really good ingredients prepared really (really) well.

So, upon leaving an amazing dinner that night, I signed up to receive the daily menu for Ad Hoc via email.

And, since then, every Thursday through Monday, I anticipate with pleasure opening my email, reading the day's menu, and attempting not to drool over what is being served that night. For a look at what I am talking about, here's the link to Ad Hoc's daily-changing menu. For example:

"Salad of Baby Mixed Greens - shaved summer squash, marinated cucumbers, brioche croutons, pickled red onions, breakfast radish, garlic vinaigrette... 

"  Buttermilk Fried Chicken - tfl garden pole bean stew, fresno chilies, san marzano tomato sauce, pulled pork, anson mills carolina gold rice..."

"  (Cheese Course) Fiscalini Farm's San Joaquin Gold - Jacobsen's orchard apple butter, palladin toast...

"  Chocolate Cake - popcorn ice cream..."

Honestly, those examples are the tip of the iceberg of amazing goodness that oozes from this place, besides the fact that the fried chicken, according to most, is the BEST fried chicken in the world (I have yet to sample). Few menus, let alone cookbooks, provide much creative stigma for me when it comes to cooking, but when I am inspired, all good things (kitchen related) happen. I had to get my hand on these recipes, no matter what. So, I recently bought the Ad Hoc at Home Cookbook, which quite frankly, could have been one of the best cookbook purchases EVER.

After pouring over every page, my taste buds on "fire" from the combination and choice of ingredients, it was time to try out a recipe from the book. Last weekend, Fellow Foodie and I thought it would be great to try out the Green Bean and Potato Salad with Mission Figs - a light salad/vegetable dish as a side to BBQ'ed filets from Chaffin Orchards. This is a great flavor-packed and textural salad for the remaining months of Summer.

Here is the photo from the cookbook that got us excited to try it out.

But, in the nature of how I cook, I never truly follow a recipe. So, we set out with all of the ingredients, less the Spanish "prosciutto" (aka Iberico Ham), changed some techniques, and here's what we came up with.

  • French or Blue Lake Green Beans, ends trimmed
  • Walnuts, toasted
  • Cherry Belle (most common) Radishes, thinly sliced
  • Mission Figs, quartered
  • Fingerling or yellow-skinned new potatoes, quartered
  • bay leaf
  • thyme sprigs
  • whole peppercorns
  • sea salt
  • Olive oil
  • Goat cheese, crumbled
  • Fresh chives, minced
  • 1/4 C cherry-infused balsamic vinegar (or a good quality balsamic vinegar)
  • 1/4 C red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/3 - 1/2 C good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

First, whisk together the vinaigrette: I like to do it all in a glass measuring cup. Add both vinegars and honey and whisk until honey dissolves. Add oil, slowly whisking, until combined. Season with salt and pepper. 

Next, the potatoes. We "adopted" Keller's technique of adding "aromatics" (aka, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns listed above) to the water the potatoes would boil in. So, add the potatoes and aromatics to a pot, cover with cold water, add some salt, and bring to a boil over the stove. Cook until fork tender (about 15-20 minutes for what you see below) and drain on paper towels - allow to cool for about 15 minutes. And, after tasting them, this is a technique I would highly recommend.

Next up, our twist on the potatoes - heat up a saute pan with some olive oil and add each quartered potato (will have to do in batches to not "crowd the pan") to brown on each side (this will give the potatoes a little more texture with the dish, but you don't have to do this step).

While the potatoes are cooking, get another pot boiling with some salt. Add the green beans to the pot and cook until ever-so-slightly soft, about 5 minutes. 

Remove from pot and place in an "ice bath" which shocks the beans from not cooking any further but also helps to retain their vivid green color (ice bath = ice + cold water). Allow to sit in bath for about 7 minutes and then drain and dry on paper towels.

Now, for the assembly: toss the beans, radishes, and potatoes together in a bowl. Add vinaigrette as needed to coat the vegetables (the potatoes will soak up a lot of the vinaigrette). Add the walnuts, figs, goat cheese, and chives and season with salt and pepper.


The textures alone - crunch from the walnuts as well as from the green beans, softness of the ripe figs plus the goat cheese, crispness of the radishes and the slight "fry" of the potatoes - plus the acidity from the vinaigrette with the slight onion-pungency from the chives...this was one of the best side salads/veggie dishes I had ever tasted. It paired lovely next to the filets, which were seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

Funny enough, as I went to write this entry the other day, Ad Hoc had listed this on their daily menu accompanied with Filet Mignon that night:

TFL Garden Fig Salad

black mission and kadota figs
toasted walnuts, breakfast radishes
preserved lemons, prosciutto di san daniel

They too changed up their salad as we had of theirs. 

Perhaps Ad Hoc had gotten wind of our pairing of this salad with filet mignon before they thought of it? In my infamous words, "I am going to go with, NO".

But, needless to say, it was an incredibly simple and delicious meal. A fantastic combination of flavors and textures, which makes me yearn to try almost every recipe in the Ad Hoc cookbook. 

And, even though I know I will find myself cooking through the whole cookbook, I still wait ever-so-patiently for Ad Hoc's daily menu to show up in my email inbox, lusting for every dish they list for the evening.

Garden-Fresh Basil Pesto and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

For the three years I lived in San Francisco, amidst all of the amazing restaurants, farmer's markets, wineries, food and wine festivals, there was one thing I wished for: space for a garden. Living in my "spaciously-challenged" studio apartment, there wasn't even room for herbs growing in my windowsill, and all I wanted to do was to grow was herbs: thyme, basil, parsley, chives - all of the lovely ingredients that I use as much as possible.

Though a huge part of me still yearns to live in the city by the bay, being back in So Cal definitely has its benefits, including space (finally) for my herb garden. There is something innately special to me to be able to open the doors to my patio with a pair of kitchen shears in hand, snip a few sprigs of "something", and head back to my kitchen to put my amazingly fresh ingredients to great use.

And, most recently, that "something" was basil. It's subtle, perfume-y aroma is addictive. And, being the height of Summer, my basil is growing like a weed, but in a good way. These lovely, deep green, herbaceous leaves beg to be used simply in a fresh salad with burrata cheese and heirloom tomatoes, as I have made plenty-a-time so far this season. But, one of my favorite ways to use basil: homemade pesto.

Five simple ingredients - basil, parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, garlic, olive oil - all pulsed together, create one of my favorite things to cook with. Incorporate with yogurt for a yummy dip for grilled vegetables; add extra olive oil and use to marinate chicken; toss with penne and whatever else you have on hand to make a great pasta dish; or, as I love to do, bring a little cream to a boil, whisk in a bit of pesto, and you have the most satisfying cream sauce for so many things.

And, being the height of Summer, I am making pesto like crazy. Why? Because it freezes so well. Pour the pesto into a tupperware container, throw it in your freezer, and you have homemade pesto to last you through the Fall and colder months. It is a great way to utilize this fragrantly-amazing herb. 

  • about 2 C (packed) worth fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 1/4 C toasted pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (the better the quality, the better it will taste)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in food processor and blend together.

Pour into tupperware container to freeze or use immediately. If storing in fridge, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of pesto to prevent from turning brown/oxidizing. Can be stored in fridge for up to a week, and can be frozen up to 6-8 months.

The vibrant green color from the basil is so beautifully striking, and while making this pesto all I can think about is the myriad of ways to use it. If you freeze it, you can also pour into ice cube trays for individual servings, or, as I do, I just chip away chunks from the tupperware container as I want.

Don't have basil or pine nuts on hand? Change it up! You can use spinach, parsley, cilantro, arugula, etc. in the place of the basil, and as for nuts, choose almonds, walnuts, pistachios, etc. for a different take on a simple classic condiment.

So, that leads me to another variation of pesto, using sun dried tomatoes. I "heart" sun dried tomatoes - they become oh-so-sweet during the drying process, and their acceptably chewy texture is amazing in salads and sauces. Whether simply vacuum-sealed or packed in oil, I love to utilize these little gems as much as I can. Here is a great source for sun dried tomatoes.

I love using extra basil I have on hand to make this pesto, and had to share as well.

  • 1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 C toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put all ingredients in food processor and combine.

Another great staple to have on hand or to freeze. And, in my most recent case, I made a delicious sun dried tomato cream sauce for chicken that I served for a girl's night dinner:

  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 1/2 C chicken broth
  • 1/4 C sun dried tomato pesto (could also use regular pesto)
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In a sauce pot, bring wine and chicken broth to a boil; reduce by half.

Add sun dried tomato pesto and cream and reduce by half; season with salt and pepper.

And serve! Yes, that is the grilled corn salad I made recently, and it paired great with the chicken and the sauce.

Whether growing it yourself, bagging some at your local farmer's market, or picking some up this Summer at your local market, make sure to get your hands on some of this season's bounty of basil. So versatile, so fantastic, so delicious.