The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson Hardcover, 224 pages Stewart, Tabori & Chang List price: $24.95
Serves 4, as a light lunch or supper
I like the mimicry here between the strands of pasta and the sliced beans.
1 pound scarlet runner beans or Romano beans, trimmed 2 tablespoons butter 1 1/4 cups whipping cream 5 ounces soft cream cheese 1 large garlic clove, peeled and minced 1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt freshly ground white pepper generous grating of nutmeg 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving 3/4 pound Cipriani tagliatelle, or other fine-quality egg tagliatelle or fettuccine 2 handfuls of basil leaves handful of mint leaves
Thinly slice the beans lengthwise, removing the outer stringy sides.
Put the butter, cream, cream cheese, garlic, seasoning, nutmeg, and Parmesan into a medium pan and slowly bring to a simmer, gently whisking at the same time to melt everything together. Put to one side.
Have a large bowl of ice water ready. Add the beans to a large pan of generously salted boiling water and cook until just tender. Lift them out in batches with a large slotted spoon and immediately immerse them in the ice water, dispersing them with your hands to cool them down as swiftly as possible. Don't discard the cooking water.
Once the beans are really cold, tip them into a large colander and drain thoroughly. Return them to the (now empty) bowl and stand it in the sink.
Now, making sure that there aren't any stray bits of cooked bean in the reserved cooking water, bring it back to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Carefully balance the colander over the beans in the bowl and drain the pasta over them; this will, effectively, reheat the beans at the same time.
Lift out the colander, shaking out any clinging water from the draining pasta, and place on the draining board. Lift the bowl of beans in hot water out of the sink. Replace the pasta colander in the sink and drain the beans over the pasta. Toss and shake the beans and pasta together using a couple of large forks, or salad servers, until evenly combined.
Coarsely chop the basil and mint leaves together, stir them into the reserved cream mixture, and warm through. Pour into the pan in which the pasta was boiled and then add the pasta and beans. Over very gentle heat, carefully lift and turn them through the cream and herb mixture until well coated and hot.
Serve on warmed plates and hand around freshly grated Parmesan at table.
Excerpted from The Vegetarian Option by Simon Hopkinson. Copyright 2010. Reprinted by permission of Stewart, Tabori & Chang.