Beans with hazelnut and orange

Surprise!  That's what a room of 30 were exclaiming last Saturday afternoon in honor of my friend Sue's 50th birthday.  So, in celebration of that event, this and the next three posts {if my planning goes as expected} will be centered around food that I made for the surprise birthday party last weekend.  Here's a little insight into my dear friend Sue.  She travelled to Israel twice in the past three years, and each time she returned she had such an excitement and joy in her heart for that land and the people.  I know if she could move there she would.  Last year Mike and I found the perfect book for her birthday; Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  It combined two of her passions, Jerusalem and food.  Ever since last year we have been meaning to get together and make a meal from that cookbook.  Although we see each other often, we didn't get a chance to recreate a Jerusalem dish.  So, when the time came for me and Sue's mom to plan her surprise party I knew exactly what the menu should be based on; Jerusalem.  

The food found in Jerusalem: A Cookbook is vibrant, fresh, and flavorful.  I came across a few ingredients that were new to me, like za'atar {a blend of herbs, mixed with sesame seeds, and dried sumac}, sumac {a spice that has a tart taste like lemon}, and labneh {strained yogurt, similar to greek yogurt}.  To tell the truth, I was a little nervous cooking Middle Eastern cuisine for the first time for a group of people on such a special day.  I was also worried how the guests would respond to the food if they were not used to that type of fare.  Thankfully, everyone seemed to enjoy it.  

Sue's birthday menu included beans/peas with hazelnuts and orange, spinach salad with dates and pickled onions, spiced chickpea and fresh vegetables, kofta (minced lamb and beef), and chicken with saffron.  Oh, we also served fresh pita and hummus, cheese platter with figs, strawberries, and grapes, and of course cake {courtesy of Sue's sister-in-law & McArthur's Bakery}!

I had such a wonderful time planning and attending this party.  I wanted everything to be perfect for my friend, but most importantly I wanted Sue to be surrounded by the love of her family, friends, and God that day.  I'm so thankful for my friend, a true treasure from God!  Here's to great friends, good food, and gladness!

CLICK HERE for a printer friendly recipe.

Ingredients for Beans with hazelnuts and orange (serves 12)

  • 1 pound green beans
  • 1/2 pound sugar snap
  • 1/2 pound snow peas
  • 70 grams (about 1/4 cup) skinned hazelnuts
  • 1 orange: rind zested; fruit diced into 1cm pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp + 1 pinch coarse salt 

Directions for beans with hazelnuts and orange

  1. In a large stockpot, fill 1/2 to 3/4 of the way with water.  Add 3 tbsp of coarse salt to the water, bring to a boil.  
  2. Prepare a large bowl as an ice bath, set aside.  Blanch a small batch of green beans in boiling water for 4 minutes.  The beans will need space to preserve their bright green color.  After 4 minutes, remove beans from boiling with slotted spoon and plunge into the ice bath for 30-60 seconds.  Drain into a colander.  Pat dry. 
  3. Repeat step 2 for snap and snow peas, but only blanch for 1 minute vs. 4 minutes.
  4. In a large bowl, place the dried, blanched beans and peas.  Add zest of one orange, hazelnuts, minced garlic, olive oil, and a pinch of salt.  Gently toss to coat beans/peas with oil.  Add diced orange (fruit) as a garnish.  Serve at room temperature.