Odessa Piper, one of the most talented regional chefs in America, founded L'Etoile Restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin over a quarter century ago. As its Chef-Proprietor, she has become famous for marrying fine cuisine with the honest fruits of the land.
Over the years, her passion for fresh, seasonal produce of exceptional quality has led her to forge bonds with and to nurture the local organic farmers who supply her with these jewels. As she herself puts it, "We believe that respect for nature and all that grows is the beginning of the understanding of good food. We strive to work with ingredients that are cultivated in accordance with their natural cycles, and are grown in their native and adapted soils. Eating locally and seasonally nourishes both the land and our communities."
Odessa's style of cuisine combines the bounty of her own countryside with the traditions of France and a dash of genius as well. We asked her a for a recipe that would celebrate the freshness and wholesomeness of green beans from the garden.
Green Beans with Creme Fraiche & Violas
Green beans just love dill and lemon so much that it is hard to break up the act. I've introduced a creamy, tart, cultured cream called creme fraiche to harmonize their flavors, and a favorite companion from the garden, violas, to make a chorus.
1 pound green beans
One lemon finely zested and juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup creme fraiche*
1 teaspoon grated shallot
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh dill weed
8 violas or other edible flower petals
8 flowering dill umbels
Blanch the Beans: Snap off the stem end of the beans. Bring a large pot filled with enough water to cover the beans to a rolling boil. Add the beans and cook for about half a minute. Remove the beans and plunge them into iced water. When they are completely cool, remove and pat dry.
For the Vinaigrette: Place the lemon zest, shallot pulp, salt, pepper, dill and creme fraiche in a mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 tablespoon of olive oil and lemon juice to taste.
Assembly: Toss the green beans with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, several pinches of salt and a grind of pepper. Arrange beans on a platter and spoon the creme fraiche vinaigrette around the beans. Scatter the viola petals over all and tuck the flowering dill umbels in around the edges.
*For a lower calorie version, blend 1/2 cup cottage cheese with 2 tablespoons buttermilk and use in place of the creme fraiche.