I hate when bookstores close.
I’m a devoted Barnes & Noble shopper, but when the Borders on Broad Street was closing I went every day for a week looking for a deal. I’d take the escalator to the second floor and roam the aisles while mindlessly picking up cheesy books about 5 minutes desserts and vegetables that looked like still life paintings. Nothing seemed to catch my eye until I picked up Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris. The paperback cover with a breezy woman carrying a bag full of baguette screamed Chick Lit, a category I am happy to read. As I stood over a pile of books thumbing through the first few pages I fell for Elizabeth’s Paris in the same way she fell for her French husband.
I quickly demolished the book and kept turning to it, making Elizabeth my imaginary fairy godmother. When I had 17 part-time jobs but nothing full-time I’d remind myself that Elizabeth up and moved to another country with only a few part-time gigs to her name. So if she can make a life in France then I am capable of functioning in America. It didn’t hurt that her Parisian adventure was peppered with recipes for fig filled desserts and an obsession with spring produce and celery root.
A few months ago I picked up Bard’s second book and truthful love letter to life in France. Just like Lunch in Paris, I’ve read Picnic in Provence cover to cover, over and over. Somehow the book makes moving to a small town in the French countryside sound both ridiculous and exactly the right thing to do, and isn’t that how all good life decisions seem at first.
In addition to tales of life in small town France there are mouth-watering recipes to bookend each chapter. When I think of France, sun-soaked vegetables bathed in butter and endless wine come to mind. But chickpeas and tahini and tagine come up just as often in Bard’s provencal life. And with a container of sesame paste languishing in the back of my fridge after I went on a Zahav cookbook cooking spree, I put down the book long enough to make a recipe from it.
Lucky for me the tahini dressing is whisked together in less than two minutes. Sesame paste is stirred into greek yogurt and then lemon juice brightens and thins out the mixture. I added a bunch of olive oil to make the dressing a little more pourable. The usual salt and pepper are the seasoning but I also added a big pinch of sumac.
Sumac is a dried red berry from the Middle East. I’ve only ever seen it ground. If you find whole sumac then you go to cooler stores than me. I like to sprinkle it into dishes that have lemon in them. Sumac has a bright citrus flavor but isn’t as tart as a lemon would be. If you can’t find sumac no worries, it’s not a make or break ingredient.
While not as fast as the tahini dressing, blanched green beans for dipping aren’t a huge time commitment. The most time consuming thing about the vegetables is trimming the ends and you can get around that by buying prepped green beans or just something else instead. Raw carrots would be delicious dragged through the yogurt and tahini, too. If you’re looking for a snack of a fairy godmother pick up Elizabeth Bard’s books and then move to France and invite me to stay in your guest room. Maybe it can be next ridiculous and exactly the right thing to do life decision.
- 1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
- 2 tbs tahini
- 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 7 ounces greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- generous pinch of black pepper
- generous pinch of sumac
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook trimmed green beans for 2-3 minutes. You want them to turn bright green but to still retain their snap.
- Drain and set green beans aside.
- Whisk together tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and greek yogurt.
- Add salt, pepper, and sumac to taste.
- To serve you can either drizzle some of the tahini dressing over the green beans or simply dip the veg in the dip.