At first glance, there’s nothing on this plate worthy of getting all emotional about. Indeed, it’s a delicious, satisfying green bean salad, made hearty by smoky, meaty prosciutto di parma and accented by just a tiny bite of mustard and radish. Delicious yes. Tear worthy? With drama and violins? Nope.
And even so, I found myself tearing up as I prepared it tonight – as part of our last ditch supper, with us begging to stretch out every last second out of what turned out to be a delightful, lazy weekend. There’s nothing here to cry about, nary an onion in sight, and yet, there I was, counterside, snapping beans over the sink, bawling like a baby.
People who know that I love to cook often ask me if I learned how from my mother, which is pretty laughable, because my mother wouldn’t let me near her kitchen for a single second longer than the time it took to pour a bowl of cereal. you see, my sister and I were a walking mess, veritable Tazmanian devils of slovenly behavior, and my mother was fed up with restoring order in our path (our father’s too) as she did her best to minimize the damage we left in our wake.
Growing up on a few healthy acres in Northern New England, I took for granted the tremendous bounty of fresh, seasonal produce we had coming from our very own backyard. Only now, as I join the crowds at my local urban greenmarkets, can I appreciate my mother’s commitment to growing fresh vegetables for our family. She was part of a food movement before that movement even existed. And as I was snapping green beans for the salad this evening, I couldn’t help be be transported back to my childhood, when my mother delegated such menial jobs to my sister and me. They made us part of the cooking, and yet, moved us out of the kitchen, safely onto the back porch, where we were sure to do little damage. I remember resenting tasks like this – snapping beans and peas, shucking corn… but now they make me tear up thinking about how much I miss my mommy.
Yeah, how perfect, on Mother’s Day, of all days. My mother is the type of woman who would be mortified by such a display. She’d be telling me to get a grip, that my life is easy compared to so may others. And this is the affirmation that I rely on during our weekly (or, if it’s a hard week, daily) phone calls, because this city can take you far from Earth, and sometimes all I need to get through is tough love, Mom style.
Green Bean Salad with Radishes and Prosciutto
Adapted from Bon Appétit, June 2009
1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed
8 radishes, sliced paper-thin
1 3-ounce package thinly sliced prosciutto, cut crosswise into thin strips
3 tablespoons aged Sherry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1/4 cup olive oil
1 2- to 3-ounce wedge parmagiano reggiano
Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain well; cool. Toss beans, radishes, and prosciutto in large bowl. Whisk Sherry, mustard, and chives in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Toss salad with enough dressing to coat. Using vegetable peeler, shave cheese in thin strips over salad