White-bean and asparagus salad

Asparagus comes into season on the farms in April. I prefer to make this with the largest, fattest green spears I can find. Using canned beans is a real time-saver, but you can certainly make you own if you prefer, or use leftovers. (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb large asparagus, trimmed
  • 1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
  • 2 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 (15- to 19-oz) cans white beans, rinsed and drained well (3 to 3 1/2 cups)
  • 4 slices bread, cut from a boule
  • 1 (1/2-lb) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, halved crosswise

Directions

  • Cut asparagus on a diagonal into 1/4 -inch-thick slices.
  • Bring oil, lemon zest, juice, salt, and pepper to a simmer in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, then stir in beans and asparagus. Remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 10 minutes.
  • While beans stand, butter the bread slices or smear them with olive oil. Then lightly grill or broil them.
  • Run a vegetable peeler across the edge of the cheese to make several long curls
  • Add the parsley to the beans and toss. Transfer this to a small platter or serving bowl and sprinkle the parmesan curls over the top. Serve with the broiled or grilled bread.

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Potatoes Gratin Auvergnat

This is a wonderful, decadent potato dish featuring two star cheeses of South Central France: Cantal and blue d’Auvergne. Followed by a simple salad, it’s all you need for a hearty lunch. It’s also a great accompaniment for simple grilled or roasted beef.

This dish is best assembled a few hours before it’s baked and served.

(Serves 6-8)

Ingredients

  • 3 Lbs firm red-skinned potatoes
  • 1 qt. Whole milk
  • Coarse see salt
  • 3 ½ -4 oz. blue d’Auvergne, at room temperature
  • ½ Cup heaviest cream
  • 1 oz Cantal, shredded
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  •  
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp Aleppo pepper, optional
  • 1 garlic clove, pureed
  • 2 TBS butter

Directions

  • Peel the potatoes, rinse and slice them as thinly as you can. Do not rinse of soak the potatoes after they’re sliced
  • Rinse a large pot with cold water but do not wipe it out. Put the potatoes in the pot and cover with 3 cups of the milk, and ¼ tsp of salt. Cover the pot and bring it to boil. Reduce the heat to low until the potatoes are al dente, about 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat.
  • Meanwhile, blend the blue d’Auvergne and the cream together into a paste. Add the remaining 1 cup milk the shredded Cantal, a pinch of salt, several grinds of black pepper, the nutmeg and the Aleppo.
  • Smear a gratin dish with the pureed garlic. Using a slotted spoon, transfer about a third of the potatoes to the dish. Top with half the cheese mixture. Repeat and then end with the final third of the potatoes.
  • Pour the milk from the pot over potatoes in an even layer. Dot with butter.
  • Cover this with a kitchen town and let it set for 2-3 hours in a cool place. Do not refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 400° about 2 hours before serving.

  • Put the gratin dish on a baking sheet and set it in the oven. Bake for 1 ½ hours. If not serving immediately, reduce the oven to 200°. The gratin can hold for up to an hour.

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Salad of Haricots Vert

This is a great dish for early summer when the first, sweet, tender green beans begin appearing on market days in the small towns around Gibeau. If the beans available to you aren’t so small or young, just cook them longer in the initial blanching. (Serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 1 lbs tender, bright green haricots vert, washed and stemmed
  • 1 TBS red wine vinegar
  • 3 TBS walnut oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil.
  • Prepare an iced water bath
  • Drop the haricots vert into the water. Boil for 1 minute, then scoop them out using a slotted spoon or tongs, reserving the water.
  • Plunge the beans immediately into the ice bath. Let them sit for a few minutes to ensure they’re completely cool. Drain the beans from their soaking water and transfer them to an 8- to 10-quart enameled casserole.
  • Turn off the heat underneath the water. Cover the pot.
  • Wisk together the vinegar, walnut oil, salt and pepper in a small jar. Cover tightly and refrigerate.

The salad can be prepared to this point several hours in advance. If preparing ahead, remove the beans from the water bath, seal in an airtight container and refrigerate.

  • Bring the pot of water back to a vigorous boil. Plunge the beans back into the boiling water, bring back to a boil and cook 1 minute.
  • Drain the beans. Transfer to a large bowl and toss in the vinaigrette. Add a few drops of water if it seems too thick.

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Gibeau. An authentic country home for vacation rental in Southwest France. Inquire about availability