In my early years of visiting Paris there was one thing that drove me mad. No, it wasn’t the language barrier (Je me debrouille, I get by), the less than pristine metro (I like a little “grittiness”) or the perceived aloofness of Parisians (on the contrary, I find them to be most delightful).
No, it was the fact that any food purchases I made had to be tucked into my suitcase to endure the plane ride home until I could use them.
You see, I’m a real food shopper while in Paris (I’m also a clothes hound but that’s a subject for ANOTHER time) so my early years spent in Paris hotels meant I had to wait to use any of the goodies I bought until I was back across the pond.
I thought if only I had the chance to unwrap that heady aromatic French walnut oil first in Paris I would somehow reach another level of the Parisian experience. Fortunately, after several years of hotel dwelling, it’s only apartment living for me now and my grocery basket has found a home.
Renting an apartment is one of the best ways to uncover another layer of Parisian life, even if it’s just for a few days, a week, a month or several months. The mere fact that I need aluminum foil sends me into a giddy state of wandering through a market surrounded by locals in search of what else I might find. And what always makes its way into my basket are the French nut oils. I believe the French produce the best nut oils on the planet and I take advantage of their expertise on every visit.
Every market from the roving outdoors ones to the Franprix, G20and Carrefour supermarchés have ample supplies of this liquid gold, but there is one brand and store that has captured my heart: J. Le Blanc which is available at a cute little shop named Tomat at 12 rue Jacob, 75006.
The J. Le Blanc oil tastes just like the walnut itself. Drizzle it on warm bread and it will remind you of a homey warm loaf of walnut bread.
The hazelnut oil invokes the toasty morsel enjoyed on a crisp cool day.
Perhaps the oils are so good because this is a business that still operates the old-fashioned way. Since 1878 the production is done by small batch only. The mills are in the small town of Iquerande in southwestern Burgundy and the owners have been working with the same farmers for decades. There are no refining capabilities so production takes place as orders come in, which means highest quality is guaranteed. And they cap their production to only 300 liters per day!
But the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, in the green beans!
Below is my lovely way to prepare the classic French haricots verts awakened with the intense J LeBlanc walnut oil. Visit two of my favorite markets; Richard Lenoir (aka: Bastille), Marche Aligre (pictured to the right) or Saxe Breteuil and just have a ball selecting the perfect strands of haricot verts for this recipe. Or find the ingredients in any store where you live and give it a try.
Un simple plat du cote, mais elegant (a simple but elegant side dish!)
Haricots Verts with Roasted Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
Makes 6 servings
1 pound haricots verts, trimmed
1 bowl of ice water (set to the side until you need it to cool off the haricots verts – see step 1)
For the Vinaigrette:
2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp finely minced shallot
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup J Le Blanc Roasted Walnut Oil (or any nut oil you prefer)
For the Garnish:
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
2 Tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
1. Bring a large stockpot 2/3 filled with lightly salted water to a boil. Add the haricots verts and turn off the heat. Allow the haricots verts to stand in the water for 2 minutes. Drain. Then immediately plunge the haricots verts into a bowl of ice water for a minute and drain again. Pat dry, set aside.
2. To prepare the vinaigrette, in a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, mustard and honey. Add the shallots, salt and pepper and whisk again. Slowly in a thin stream, add the walnut oil, whisking constantly until emulsified.
3. Toss the haricots verts with the vinaigrette and add to a shallow bowl or platter. Top with red bell pepper and walnuts.