Editor's Note: We're pleased to welcome Robyn Webb as a guest writer to the Paris Perfect Blog!
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 actually 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 post entirely), and my early years spent in Paris hotels meant I had to wait to use any of these goodies until I returned back across the pond. I thought if I only 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'll take advantage of their expertise on every visit.
Every market from the roving outdoor ones to the Franprix, G20 and Carrefour supermarches have ample supplies of this liquid gold, but there is one oil in particular that has captured my heart: J. Leblanc. Sold in Tomat's Epicerie Fine on the absolutely charming Rue Jacob in the 6th arrondissement (very close by to the Charente, Dragon, Nuits Saint George, Chassagne, Marsanne and Maury apartments). This specialty food store is tucked away at the back of a small courtyard, almost hard to find. But it's worth the search since this little shop is the exclusive Paris seller for Huilerie Jean Leblanc & Fils, who produce what is judged as some of the finest nut oils in the world.
And I would agree with all the critics, as these oils taste just like the nut itself. Drizzle on their walnut oil 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 it's because this is a business that is still done the old fashioned way. Since 1878 the production is done by small batch. The mills are located in the small town of Iquerande in southwestern Burgundy and the owners have been dealing with the same farmers for decades. There are no refining capabilities, production takes place as orders come in so the highest quality is guaranteed. And they cap this production to only 300 liters per day!
But the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, 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) or President Wilson and just have a ball selecting the perfect strands of haricots verts for this recipe. Un simple plat du cote, mais elegant! (A simple but elegant side dish!)
Any trip to Paris should include a visit to the iconic sites. But the one site I always look forward to now more than anything else is my “temporary” cuisine (kitchen)! And I hope you will, too.
Tomat's Epicerie Fine is located at 12 Rue Jacob, 75006. Hours: Tues-Sat 11am-1:30pm, 2:30-7:30pm. Tel: 01 44 07 36 58
Haricots Verts with Roasted Walnut Oil Vinaigrette
1 pound haricots verts, trimmed
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 Leblanc Roasted Walnut Oil
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
2 Tbsp chopped toasted walnuts
1. Bring a large stockpot 2/3 full of 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. 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 in 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.
Robyn Webb is an award winning cookbook author, nutritionist and culinary instructor living in Alexandria, Virginia. She gets to Paris every chance she can as long as the budget holds out for shoe shopping. She can be reached on twitter @robynwebb.