In 1996, chef Jacques Maximin, one of the most celebrated and notorious chefs in France, opened a modest restaurant on the ground floor of his house in Vence, just outside of Nice; it was there that we first had this salad of crisp haricots verts tossed in a light tomato-spiked cream dressing with fresh hazelnuts scattered across the top. If green hazelnuts are hard to find, you can substitute ripe blanched hazelnuts.
- 1 lb. haricots verts or green beans, trimmed
- 1⁄2 cup green hazelnuts, skins removed, or mature blanched hazelnuts
- 3⁄4 cup crème fraîche
- 1 tbsp. red-wine vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 3 cups mixed baby greens (such as bibb, mâche, or romaine)
- 3 leaves fresh basil
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add haricots verts or green beans and cook until tender, 5–8 minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water, then set aside, wrapped in a dish towel.
- If using green hazelnuts, coarsely chop and set aside. If using mature hazelnuts, heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add hazelnuts to the dry skillet, and toast, turning, until golden, 5–7 minutes. Remove, coarsely chop, and set aside.
- For dressing, place crème fraîche in a medium bowl. Whisk in vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, stir gently, then set aside for 10 minutes, allowing tomatoes to flavor and color the dressing.
- To assemble, toss greens in a medium mixing bowl with about 2 tbsp. dressing, then evenly divide between 4 plates. Transfer haricots verts, or green beans, to bowl, add about ½ cup dressing, and toss to coat. Arrange haricots verts on top of greens. Spoon remaining dressing over salads taking care that a few diced tomatoes are on top of each one. Sprinkle with hazelnuts and garnish with basil leaves.