Short Order: Bean there, done that

I'm very fond of toasted sesame, and of green beans, so I asked Ettie for this piquant recipe.

green beans 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
green beans 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Elazar, just 20 minutes' drive from Jerusalem into Gush Etzion, could model for a painting of pastoral life. It exudes the special silence of the countryside, so striking to city folk, that isn't just an absence of noise but a pervading and eloquent presence. The impression might have been one of rural unhurriedness, but there was plenty going on when I visited recently for a "Scrabble Shabbat." During that one weekend, my hosts revealed, the community was celebrating: a bar mitzva and two bat mitzvas; a Shabbat hatan (to honor a bridegroom) and a Shabbat kalla (to honor - someone else's - bride); a birth; and the arrival of a new-immigrant couple. There was also, after morning services, one kiddush to bid farewell to a family that was leaving, and another to celebrate the earning of a PhD. My hosts, David Litke and his wife Ettie, were involved in several of these events, but it didn't seem to cramp their entertaining style, and they had invited three other guests. Our Shabbat meals were ample and delicious. I'm very fond of toasted sesame, and of green beans, so I asked Ettie for this piquant recipe, which came to her via Frances Safian-Pickholtz. I played around with the quantities, and you can do the same. MEAN GREEN BEAN SALAD 250 gr. green beans, fresh or frozen 1⁄4 cup soy sauce 2 scant Tbsp. sesame oil 2 scant Tbsp. vinegar 2 scant Tbsp. sugar 2 Tbsp. sesame seeds Steam the beans, or cook them in a little water, until just tender. Toast the sesame seeds lightly in a dry pan over a flame. Mix the other ingredients together, and combine with the sesame and the beans. MY FRIEND Wendy Elliman was also a guest of the Litkes. "There's a chicken salad my kids love," she told me. "I make it nearly every week. I'll send you the recipe." The Silver Palate Cookbook, she told me in her subsequent e-mail, "gives quite a time-consuming way of cooking the chicken breasts. I usually just throw them in the chicken soup I'm making for Shabbat - once I've got it going, with the vegetables added - and leave them for 20 minutes. It helps the soup, and does the chicken breasts no harm." This salad will keep in the fridge for several days, Wendy said, "but there's rarely any left to keep." MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN SALAD 3 cooked chicken breasts 1⁄3 cup olive oil 11⁄2 tsp. dried oregano cherry tomatoes, halved, to taste 2 Tbsp. or more capers, drained 3⁄4 cup sliced olives, black or green juice of 1 lemon salt to taste 250 gr. lightly cooked green beans Cut the warm chicken into bite-sized pieces, transfer to a bowl and mix with the olive oil and oregano. Cover and allow to stand at room temperature for an hour. Add the tomatoes, capers, olives, lemon juice and salt. If you're eating the salad immediately, add the beans. Otherwise, add them half an hour before serving. AFTER TRYING out a number of gadgets for squeezing lemons, some of them fairly good, I have come to the conclusion that the simplest and best is... a large metal spoon, such as the British dessert spoon. Halve the lemon and squeeze it by hand until the juice stops flowing. Then take the spoon and rotate the back of it firmly inside the lemon shell. You'll get quite a lot more juice. To pamper your hands and elbows, rub them with the inside of the shell before discarding it. 'I HAVE another candidate for the Hilarious English Translations Award," writes reader Ronnie Reiness, "a packet in my supermarket labeled 'Piled Walnuts.' "Puzzled by this, I looked at the Hebrew - egozei melech klufim - and realized that the reference was probably to 'peeled walnuts.' "Of course, walnuts aren't peeled (or piled), they're shelled - but what can you expect from a brand called 'Deliches'?" This talk of mistranslations reminds me of a washing powder I used to buy in Ramat Gan years ago that was proudly advertised on the box as "Prilled!" Sounds powerful, but I never did find out what amazing cleansing action was being touted. ALL THINGS come to an end, and this is the last Short Order column. Heartfelt thanks to readers and friends over the past decade for their input - their recipes, tips, encouragement and humor - and for helping me prove that simple cooking can produce superb eating. Bless you all. [email protected]