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When green beans met apricots: A late-spring romance

Recipe: Vegetable/fruit salad blends textures and flavors

Salad of green beans and apricots
How fresh is this? Green beans play well with apricots. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)
Salads this time of year should celebrate the best produce in season. Today's recipe selects a fruit and a vegetable from the top of the current produce charts and combines them beautifully.
To make this salad work, find the skinniest fresh green beans (or French "haricots verts") and some ripe but not yet soft apricots. The other produce ingredients -- green grapes, a green apple -- aren't in season locally but can be found in stores. Or make substitutions: You want something sweet and soft, such as a white-flesh melon, and something crunchy, such as very thinly sliced jicama or celery.
The deli ham adds a touch of salty fat to the mix; if you don't eat ham, try small cubes of soft cheese (dairy or vegan) to get the same effect.
The recipe is adapted from food52.com , which in turn adapted it from Jaleo, a wonderful Spanish restaurant in Washington, D.C.
Green beans and other ingredients
Gorgeous fresh produce, ready for salad preparation.
Green Beans With Fresh Apricots
Serve 4
Ingredients:
1/2 to 3/4 pound thin fresh green beans or haricots verts
3 fresh, ripe apricots
2 tablespoons sherry, dry preferred but any type will work
1/3 cup green table grapes, or 1/3 cup finely diced Santa Claus or Crenshaw melon
1/3 of a Granny Smith apple, skin on, or 1/3 cup very thinly sliced celery or diced jicama
3 slices deli ham or prosciutto (1.5 ounces)
1 tablespoon chives
1 tablespoon vinegar: sherry, champagne or white wine all work (but not apple cider vinegar)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Instructions:

Wash the beans and remove the stem end, but not the tail end. Put a 4-quart or larger pot of salted water on to boil.
Wash and halve the apricots, removing the pits. Brush the cut sides of the apricots with a bit of olive oil, or spray with oil spray.
If you're already heating the outdoor grill for something else,  place the apricots cut side down on the grill but for no more than about 1 minute, just to gently heat them. Alternatively, heat a grill pan or a nonstick skillet on the stove over medium-high heat and warm the apricot halves in the pan, cut side down, for about 1 minute. Remove the warmed halves to a bowl, cut side up, and pour 1 tablespoon of the sherry over the apricots. Set them aside to soak while the other ingredients are being prepared.
Thinly slice the grapes. Dice the apple and the ham slices.
Add the green beans to the boiling water in the pot and cook until tender but still crisp, 2 to 3 minutes.  (Check one to be sure.) Drain -- do NOT run under cold water -- and return the beans to the still-warm pot.
Sprinkle the grape slices, ham, apple and chives over the beans. Drain the sherry from the apricots into the pot, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon sherry, stirring to blend. Slice the drained apricot halves into 6 pieces each. Gently stir the apricot halves into the green bean mixture.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar and olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables and stir to blend. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve the salad warm or at room temperature.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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