Sometimes, when a restaurant closes, it leaves a hole in your heart. Such was the case with Azul on Caesar Chavez, in the beautifully restored house that’s now home to The Shuck Shack. Comfortably hip, Azul served the best sandwiches and sides of any cafe I’d ever been to. The vibe was just right, and the food was perfect. Interesting and familiar at the same time. Deviled eggs, a grilled eggplant panini prepared with care and attention. Zapp’s potato chips. Really good iced tea. The real joy was in the details. Perfectly sliced and toasted bread. Sides that were so much more than an afterthought. I’m always most impressed when restaurants put care and attention into everyday dishes. Stacked and heavily garnished masterpieces make me weary. But a really good sandwich? That, I will come back for time and again. It’s really hard to run a restaurant. There’s no time for family, or really for anything other than running the restaurant. As someone who had to make the hard decision to walk away and close the doors, I completely get it. But I really, really miss Azul. And I really miss this green bean salad, one of the most inspired sides I’d ever had. Cutting the green beans into tiny slivers completely changed the taste and texture of something so familiar as to be mundane. Azul’s green bean salad was the opposite of mundane. It was crunchy and bright, nutty, and tart with lemon juice and parsley. Sometimes a restaurant can make simple things new again. When it’s also the perfect place to sit in a corner with a good book or laugh with a friend, and when it costs less than $10 to have lunch, that’s magic.
1/2 pound green beans
1 shallot, minced
small handful of Italian parsley leaves
2 Tbs. sesame seeds, toasted
3 Tbs. sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 c. chevre, crumbled
2 Tbs. lemon juice
2 Tbs. white wine or champagne vinegar
1 Tbs. whole grain mustard
1/3 c. olive oil
Remove stems from green beans and slice crosswise into 1/4″ “coins.” Blanch by adding to rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds, then plunging into ice water. Let sit in ice water for about 10 minutes, then drain and dry. Place beans in a bowl, and add minced shallot, parsley, sesame seeds and almonds. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, and shallots. Continue whisking while slowly drizzling in olive oil until dressing is emulsified. Add dressing to green beans and toss to coat evenly. Place on serving piece and top with crumbled goat cheese.