Category Archives: Sides

Spring and spinach

Happy first day of spring! I am more excited than usual for its arrival this year. I am excited for spring every year, who isn’t? But this year the winter seems to have been longer, darker, more wearing. I’m sure this is all in my mind, but regardless, I am brimming now that spring has finally decided to show up.

spring flowers

One of the things that starts to happen in my kitchen when spring comes, and is fully ensconced as a policy by summer, is that the meals get simpler. The best spring and summer recipes involve less prep time, less cooking time, just less fuss all around. This suits my spring mood perfectly, since all of a sudden there are a million other things I’d rather be doing than standing over a hot stove (the opposite of how I feel in the winter, for the record!).

I want to plant an herb garden, for instance, and to ride my bike along that path by the river that I kept meaning to check out last summer. David and I are planning to hike and camp and swim in as many of the spots that new friends and acquaintances have described as the “best places” for such things around here as we can.

I’m looking to sit on patios – as many as I can find/get myself invited to – with a cold drink and a book, feeling the sun warm the back of my neck. It is my goal to have a picnic at every park in town and watch the dogs that will surely be at said parks run and play. I want to pick blueberries at one of the many fields that I pass on my drive to work, when the rows and rows of bushes that have been red and bare all winter become green and laden with fruit.

With all these plans, who has time to cook? Spring and summer produce is so glorious though, that I certainly wouldn’t want to forgo home-cooked meals during this time. That is where recipes like this Spiced Coconut Spinach come in. During this time of year I return again and again to old standbys like this one: recipes that I know by heart, that are quick, simple, consistently delicious, and that show off the season’s best fruits and vegetables.

mise en place

This spinach comes together in no time (seriously, 15 minutes from start to finish) and its flavors are dazzling – much more intense than you might expect. You can pair it with other spring and summer vegetables to your heart’s content. The original recipe pairs it with asparagus, which is lovely, and I imagine it would also meld well with zucchini, summer squash, corn, fresh peas, even green beans. 

It is also an ideal accompaniment for almost any starch or protein that you might be using to round out your meal. We generally eat it with brown rice, but it also tucks nicely into a pita and sits well atop a baked potato or a pile of pasta. The original recipe suggests folding it into an omelet, which is how I plan to eat it next.

Here’s to spring!

spiced spinach

Spiced Coconut Spinach

Adapted from 101cookbooks
Serves 2 as part of an entree, 3-4 as a side

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 6 1/2 cups spinach (~7 oz.), washed and chopped (no need to chop if using baby spinach, but I’d recommend lovely, full, spring spinach!)
  • 1 cup summer vegetables, chopped (optional)
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and toast them until they start to pop. Then, add the red pepper flakes and cook for one more minute.

Add the shallot, garlic, and salt and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and any other summer vegetables (i.e. quick cooking vegetables) you’re using. Stir frequently and cook for just a few minutes – until the spinach cooks down and any other vegetables are fork-tender.

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and top with the toasted coconut.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Main Course, Sides

Post-Thanksgiving equals salad

Hi friends. Welcome to post-Thanksgiving! Or pre-Christmas, or December, or whatever you call it. I hope that if you celebrated Thanksgiving last week you had a lovely one filled with lots of butter and cream.

I know I certainly did – and loved every minute of it! We are vegetarians around here so our big meal didn’t include the turkey, but it certainly did include plenty of butter and cream.

We had pumpkin soup topped with buttered chanterelle mushrooms and cream biscuits for our starter. If you’ve never had cream biscuits, I implore you to try these. The cream makes them effortlessly flaky and tender. No worrying about cutting the butter in enough and into the right size pieces, no worrying about overworking the dough. Just perfect biscuits. The soup was also to die for, it will be gracing my table many more times this winter.

pumpkin

Then we dove into a host of veggie dishes, starring roasted brussels sprouts with pine nuts and Parmesan, garlicky green beans, ginger-spiked mashed sweet potatoes topped with pecans, and vanilla cranberry sauce. I can never make enough of those brussels sprouts, they are a huge favorite of ours. And the cranberry sauce hit all the right notes – it was citrusy, lightly spiced, sweet and pleasantly sour.

cranberries

The sweet potatoes really stole the show though. Smooth and creamy, like the best mashed potatoes should be, they were also shot through with fresh ginger – a perfect foil to the natural sweetness of the potatoes. The crunchy nut topping added just the right amount of crunch and didn’t go anywhere near the “candied yam” territory. I would make these sweet potatoes for any winter meal. I don’t have a recipe to link to for those because I kind of made them up as I went along, but maybe I will post about them here in the next couple weeks (oooh what a tease!)

thanksgiving

Our main event was a decadent, fancy macaroni and cheese with mushrooms, Gruyère and Emmental, topped with homemade croutons and baked in the oven. Oh boy. This was truly a grown-up version of mac and cheese. I can’t say that it’s something I would make often, given the calorie count, but It. Was. So. Good.

mac and cheese

For dessert, I eschewed the standard pumpkin and apple pies and made instead a maple and nutmeg custard pie, as well as a cranberry upside down cake. Both were extremely tasty, but I have to admit that we missed the pumpkin pie and I ended up making one this week with my extra pie crust.

pumpkin pie

I would definitely recommend the maple and nutmeg pie though. It tasted like pancakes in custard form – so mapley and delicious!

It was a great meal, a great day, and a great weekend filled with people I love and lots of good eating. And I was very thankful.

But man oh man, do I need lots of salad now!

I know it’s not an epiphany that our bodies crave a balanced diet, but it always strikes me how strongly my system pushes me in one direction or the other depending on what nutrients I am lacking.

apple and parsley

The recipe I have to share with you today is not the type of recipe I would normally be drawn to while thumbing through a magazine. Let me tell you though – after last weekend, my body was pushing me towards this salad.

carrots and apple

I don’t generally love things that are sweet and sour, or savory things that have sweet notes. They just don’t do it for me. This salad brings both sweet and sour in spades, but it is so bright and tasty. I couldn’t help but love it. The flavors dance on the tongue. It is decidedly wholesome after a weekend of decadence, and it’s exactly what I need right now.

pretty salad

If you, like me, are feeling a bit weighed down by your Thanksgiving celebration, give this one a try. It will have you ready to take on the rest of the holiday season of eating in no time.

salad on spinach

Tangy Carrot-Apple Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

Adapted from Vegetarian Times
Makes 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups carrots, grated
  • 1 red apple, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups baby spinach

First, start the dressing by combining the cider vinegar and garlic in a small bowl. Let stand for at least 15 minutes, or longer if you have the time. The vinegar mellows out the garlic so it’s not as much like you are eating raw garlic.

Next, make the salad. Stir together the carrots, apple, parsley, and cranberries in a large bowl.

After your garlic has mellowed, finish the dressing by whisking the honey and olive oil into the cider vinegar mixture.

Add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Ideally, however, you would let the salad sit in the fridge overnight. The longer it sits the more the flavors meld and deepen.

Once the salad has chilled, serve it on a bed of fresh spinach leaves.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food, Sides

The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming!

They are. They are coming…somehow it is mid-November! How did that happen you ask? I have no idea.

I love the holidays though and really love the food part, so I am excited. But I actually feel a little robbed this year that I haven’t started thinking about what to make for Thanksgiving until now. I would usually have started the process of reading, bookmarking and drooling over recipes in October. Pesky graduate school! I have finally started thinking about it in earnest though, and wanted to share some of those thoughts with you.

pumpkins!

As you’ve probably picked up if you’ve read this blog (and/or if you know me, which, let’s be honest, is most of you that read this blog:) I am a vegetarian. And my boyfriend is too, which makes things easy. For our Thanksgiving we are going to have lots o’ veggies and things that are usually thought of as sides, but that to us are the main event.

I’ve also started combing through my various files and lists for holiday-y things to make for food gifts, which are my favorite type of Christmas gifts to give, and for things to just make during these two months. Because I can. Because during these two glorious months one can get away with using way more butter and cream than would usually be allowed in civilized society.

As with the last time I shared my recipe lists with you, I’d like to give you a few that I’ve made myself and would strongly recommend, as well as some that have made it onto my “to make” list and that I think could make it onto yours.

But! I would LOVE to hear what you are making for Thanksgiving, what your favorite Christmas treat is, or what you love to make this time of year just because you can. I need to make up for those few lost weeks of holiday-food-obsessing that grad school has robbed me of. Help me out and post a comment below!

apple!

Dishes I’ve made and would happily make again:

Dishes I’ve yet to make, but are on the Holiday list:

Desserts I’ve made and love:

Desserts I can’t wait to make:

A yummy way to use up leftover cranberry sauce:

Food to give as gifts:

Thank you so much for reading my meager offerings on this blog so far – I am thankful for you. Happy Thanksgiving!

10 Comments

Filed under Dessert, Food, Main Course, Sides

A soup worthy of chestnut season

Until recently I was at most mildly unaware of chestnuts. They are that thing people roast in that one Christmas carol, right? And the grocery store sells them in jars and they look like shriveled little brains. Had you asked me about chestnuts two months ago, that would have been the extent of my knowledge.

chestnut tree

Then sometime in September my boyfriend and I were walking our pup around the park near our house and we saw this green spiny thing on the ground. I wondered aloud what it was and stepped on it a couple times. Then we walked on. But noticed that as soon as we had walked away from the thing a woman walking slightly behind us quickly snatched it up and carried it covetously – and carefully – away. I was confused and a little intrigued, but I mostly forgot all about it.

chestnut burr

Until one day a couple weeks later when we were back at the park and realized that there were people…lots of people…milling around under a few of the trees looking at the ground. And I thought, ‘you know come to think of it those same people have been there the past few times we have come here. Hmm, how odd.’

So when we happened upon one of the spiny pods during that walk, we picked it up and took it home (it almost didn’t make it – we dropped it no less than 10 times – those suckers are really sharp!) We cracked it open at home with some heavy-duty gloves and discovered a chestnut inside. Ah ha.

chestnut in burr

Coincidentally, the next weekend at the farmers market we saw a booth selling the chestnuts still in their burrs (as I found out the spiny outer layer is called). And they were $10 per pound (!!) So, we got it then. People were swarming to our park, which has about five huge chestnut trees, to collect the chestnuts because they are apparently worth their weight in gold.

3 chestnuts in the hand, worth...

Now when we go to the park we keep an eye out for the fallen burrs. Note: we haven’t joined the crazies who from all appearances LIVE at the park and collect the chestnuts from dawn to dusk (ok, if they are feeding their families with the revenue from these chestnuts I will feel bad calling them crazy, but given the fact that the season is two months long each year, I really don’t think that’s the case). We have, however, managed to put away a respectable stash of chestnuts and I have been using them – sparingly! – on and in many fall dishes. They add a great texture and a subtly sweet yet earthy flavor, especially to soups.

chestnuts

Case in point, as part of my reinvigorated obsession with Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan I made a celery root and apple soup recently. It was simple and understated, but just delicious.

soup prep

I topped it with some of our hard-won chestnuts (lightly toasted) and we ate it for dinner with a simple salad and a hunk of fresh baguette from the farmers market. We felt so French. Not to mention smugly victorious about the chestnuts that we managed to snag from the “professional” gatherers in the park AND that we didn’t have to pay $10 a pound for!

use creme fraiche

Of course, the chestnuts did not come completely without a price, as anyone who has ever shelled fresh chestnuts knows. They are basically a pain in the butt and if I wasn’t getting them for free I wouldn’t bother.

If you happen upon some though, or want to go ahead and buy some fresh at the store to see what all of the fuss is about, let me give you a piece of advice: boil them instead of roasting them in the oven. They taste the same either way and are a lot easier to peel when they’re boiled. I provide some more detailed instructions for doing this below the soup recipe. Happy chestnut season!

yummy soup pretty bowl

Celery-Apple Soup

Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
Makes 4-6 servings

Dorie calls this recipe ‘Celery-Celery Soup’ because it uses both celery root and celery stalks. For me though, the sweet apple-ness was just as prevalent as the celery, so I am calling my adaptation celery-apple. Note that if you want to follow my lead and top this soup with fresh toasted chestnuts, make sure you boil and peel them before you start working on the soup…as I already lamented, it is a pain and takes a long time. If you want to use jarred chestnuts they would be scrumptious too – just crumble them up and toast them in a pan as the soup simmers.

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 celery stalks with leaves, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 med-large onions, chopped
  • 2 sweet apples (I used Gala), peeled, cored, and diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound celery root (2 fist-sized roots), peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche (optional…but you should really add it ‘cuz it makes things yummier)
  • 1/4 cup toasted chestnut pieces (optional)

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over low heat. Then toss in the celery, onions, and apples. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring often, for 5-7 minutes – until the vegetables are soft.

Add the celery root and stir everything together. Then add the herbs and broth, and bring to a boil.

Once it’s boiling, lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the celery root is soft enough to mash with the back of a spoon. At this point, pull out the bay leaf and the thyme twig (all the leaves will have likely come off).

Puree the soup – either in small batches in a food processor or blender, or all at once with an immersion blender.

Once the soup is smooth, stir in the crème fraîche and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls, and garnish with another dollop of crème fraîche (if you’re feeling decadent) and toasted chestnuts.

Serve immediately, but also save some for leftovers because this soup is even better the second day!

Boiled Chestnuts

Adapted from StartCooking.com

Set a large pot of water on the stove to boil.

Wipe the chestnuts off with a damp towel and set them on a cutting board, flat side down.

With a small, sharp knife cut an X in each chestnut. Make your cuts pretty big – this is the section you are going to use to peel away the skin once their cooked. Do not skip this step! The X allows the steam to escape while they are cooking, and if you don’t do it I am told that the chestnuts could explode, which no one wants. Also, please be safe – cushion the chestnut on a clean dish towel if it makes it easier for you to cut.

scored chestnuts

Boil the chestnuts for 15-20 minutes. Once you take them out, peel as soon as you are able to safely handle them – they are much easier to peel while they are still warm. I actually left half of them in the water until I had peeled the first half so that the second half would still be warm when I got to them.

chestnut skin

When peeling, make sure you are removing both layers of skin: there is a thick dark brown outer layer and a thin light brown under layer. As you peel the chestnuts will likely break apart a little, so make sure to have a bowl nearby to save the precious bits of peeled chestnuts.

Save in a container and keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.

pretty bowl

9 Comments

Filed under Food, Odds & Ends, Sides

The imperfect perfect focaccia

I did two things of note this past weekend: 1) I turned in my first graduate school paper and 2) I baked a really ugly but absolutely delicious loaf of focaccia bread.

The fact that these two things were related was something I realized sometime around 4am during a night of fitful sleep, and I honestly can’t remember if it was the paper or the focaccia that was keeping me awake…

garlic and rosemary

But in that half-dreaming/half-conscious state it dawned on me: it’s ok if things aren’t perfect. (!!) Ok, so it’s not actually the first time I have realized that, but I am the type of person who needs to be reminded of it from time to time. I have a little voice inside me – I envision her as a little mini-Elizabeth – that assures me that it’s alright not to be perfect, but sometimes it’s hard to hear her and she has to jump up and down and wave her arms around to get noticed. (That last sentence doesn’t make me crazy, does it? No? Ok good, moving on).

I did notice her though, finally, at 4am. And then I fell asleep. But then I woke up the next morning and decided that I was going to write on this blog about that disastrous-but-delicious loaf of focaccia after all.

focaccia dough

You see, I had been planning to write about it. I had never made one before, and the recipe I found for it sounded so good and fail-safe. I was super excited. But then it got a little over-browned in the electric oven that I am still trying to get used to (why, Seattle, WHY the electric ovens?!) And when I took it out of the oven it was stuck to the bottom of the dish (but I oiled the pan soooo well!) So I had to scrape and shove and cut and force it out.

baking focaccia

And then there it was: bruised and battered on the cooling rack. The focaccia that had been so lovely in my mind that was going to make the perfect blog post. Sigh. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see many food blogs out there that post pictures of ugly, misshapen food.

ugly focaccia

In my past life – the one before I started grad school (oh how long ago it seems, a whole month ago) – I would have just started over and baked another. But I used the precious bit of break time I had allowed myself from working on the aforementioned Very First Grad School Paper to bake this one. And well, you can guess the state I was in and how I reacted when the focaccia over-baked…

A few minutes later though, after I had calmed down, we ate the focaccia. We had it with our dinner – a tasty beet and carrot salad made from fresh veggies we had just bought at the farmers market. And it was good – oh man was it good!

pretty focaccia

It was the furthest thing from a disaster that it could possibly have been, because it was just delicious. It was warm and salty, crunchy-crispy on the outside, fluffy and chewy on the inside. Perfect. Because perfection in food is really about what it tastes like! That’s something else that I sometimes forget – especially when I’m taking pictures of that food and posting them online.

And of course what was really behind it all, all this obsessing over a focaccia, was that first paper. I haven’t drafted an academic paper in over seven years (eek!) and it was difficult. I was unsure. I spent way too much time on it, fretting over those pages for days.

But in the end, I turned it in knowing that I did my best – and that is all I can do. Even if it’s not perfect.

yummy focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia

Adapted from Streaming Gourmet
Makes one 13 x 9 inch loaf

As I already expounded upon, this loaf did not go as planned. In order to keep your focaccia from enduring the same slap with the ugly stick that mine got, I have three words for you: oil, oil, and more oil. Ok that’s five words, but you know what I mean. You really need to oil the bejesus out of the pan – because the thing is that you let the dough rise right in the pan for an hour before baking and it soaks up a lot of the oil during that time. There has to be enough so that some remains to provide the greasing-the-pan action that you need in order to ensure your focaccia loaf comes out clean. But if you fail at this, like I did, take heart in knowing that it will taste heavenly anyway!

Also note: this recipe is written assuming you are using a stand mixer. You can certainly make this focaccia by hand, but will need to adjust for more kneading time.

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3-4 tbsp more for oiling the pan
  • 4 whole cloves garlic, cracked
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 2/3 cup lukewarm water (no more than 100°F)
  • 1 (1/4-ounce) package rapid rise dry yeast
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 2 tsp table salt
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt (fleur de sel if you have it)

Make the garlic-rosemary infused olive oil first.

Start out by heating 1/2 cup of olive oil, the rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.

Heat until just starting to bubble, remove from heat and allow to sit and cool for 30 minutes. Discard garlic cloves and rosemary sprigs.

Once your olive oil is ready, start on the focaccia.

Stir together lukewarm water and yeast in bowl of mixer.

Add flour, 1/4 cup of the rosemary-garlic infused oil, and the table salt to the mixer bowl and beat with the paddle attachment at medium speed until a dough forms.

Replace paddle with dough hook and knead dough at medium-high speed until soft, smooth, and sticky, 3 to 4 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a fairly heavily floured surface (it will be really sticky). Knead in 2 more tablespoons of flour for about a minute.

Once the dough is even and smooth again, transfer to an oiled bowl and turn to coat it with the oil. Let rise, covered with plastic wrap, at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk – 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Press dough evenly into a generously oiled (don’t forget what I said!) 13 x 9 inch baking pan or dish (I used a casserole dish because it’s all I had that was big enough – other than a cookie sheet, but I wouldn’t use a cookie sheet for this). Let rise again, covered with a kitchen towel, until doubled in bulk – another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 475°F.

Stir together chopped rosemary and remaining 3 tablespoons garlic-rosemary infused oil.

With a fork, make shallow pin pricks all over the dough, then brush with the rosemary oil.

Sprinkle sea salt over the focaccia.

Bake at 475˚F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove from oven, invert onto a rack and flip over (and pray it comes out smoothly). Eat immediately, if possible!

happy halloween!

Happy Halloween!

8 Comments

Filed under Food, Sides

I know she would be proud

Romano beans (otherwise known as Italian green beans) were a newcomer to the farmers market recently. The barrel full of them sitting there, brimming proudly, was irresistible to me so I plunged my hand in and filled up a bag to take home.

I used them to make a side dish called Braised Romano Beans, from Smitten Kitchen one of my favorite food blogs.

Romano Beans

It was delicious and simple, befitting these Italian green beans. And it reminded me so much of my grandma. Not because she ever made them for me. I’m not sure if she ever ate this bean in her life. It’s because it was just so quintessentially Italian – just like she was. I love being reminded of her, because I love thinking about her. She passed away 6 years ago this month and was one of my favorite people.

She never prided herself on her cooking, at least that I remember. But as seems to be typical of Italian grandmothers, she was of course a good cook just by virtual of her heritage and upbringing. And food is a big category of my memories about her. I remember her cookies and her meatballs and sauce – delicious. After she passed away, my mom sent me copies of a bunch of her favorite recipes with notes scrawled all over the pages.

Mirepoix

On the other hand, I also remember the boxes of stale cereal that she used to send to us in the mail that she would buy on sale and save up for months before shipping our way. My mom would always remind us when we got these boxes that Grandma lived through the Great Depression! We never ate them, of course, but it is so funny and endearing in hindsight.

She also loved sweets. There was a famous time that I visited her and we ate a ridiculously large box of Russell Stover chocolates between the two of us. She got scolded later, because it actually really wasn’t good for her health at that point to eat that much fat and sugar, which she of course knew. But by god, she wanted those chocolates!

What she did pride herself on was how smart, political, and tenacious she was. She did a lot for her community. She was on more councils and boards than I could ever keep straight, and she was the first woman ever on her town’s school board. She encouraged me, pushed me every chance she got, to do well in school, to go to college, to write, to do great things with my life. She expected it of me.

She wrote me letters. Thin pages of paper covered with her slanting cursive. Often she would enclose newspaper articles about writers, scholarships, colleges. And just as often coupons for things like shampoo and deodorant – I mean, she was still a grandma after all.

As a teenager  I sometimes found her overbearing (what isn’t overbearing to a teenager?), but luckily by the time I got to college I realized how special she was and visited her as much as I could. As I look back now I see her as one of the strongest influences in my life. 

letters

Unsurprisingly, I wish I would have had more time with her. Written more letters back. Asked more questions.

One of the last times I visited her – I have to think she knew, or thought, that her time was short. She told me to take all her old books that I had always spent so much time with whenever I visited – English major and aspiring writer that I was. Volumes of Shakespeare, an old set of classics, poetry. She wanted me to have them all, so that they would continue to inspire me.

We packed up boxes and boxes of them together and shipped them back to my tiny studio apartment in DC. I’ve moved with them six times now, sometimes cursing their weight, but never once thinking of giving them away. They are my most prized possessions. They are the physical embodiment of her hopes and dreams for me. At least that’s how I like to think of them.

books

I know she would be proud of me for going to graduate school, and for planning a career that encourages and helps people to read. I think she would not have been so sure about my love of the more “domestic arts” of cooking and baking that she eschewed for the most part. But then again, if I served her these green beans she would probably change her mind…

Braised Romano Beans

Braised Romano Green Beans

Barely adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Makes 4-6 servings

This dish is simple, but full of flavor – like the best Mediterranean food is.  You could pair it alongside pasta that is simply dressed with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper. It would also go well with fish. These green beans are a bit tougher than their more common counterparts so this isn’t a dish to make when you’re in a hurry to eat. Save it for a night when you can simmer it for a good 40-45 minutes. Take the time standing there in front of your stove to think of someone you love – and if they’re still with us, give them a call after dinner.

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 cup carrot, diced
  • 1 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup ripe tomatoes, with their juices, chopped (you can remove the skins if you want, I didn’t bother)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds Romano beans
  • 1/2 cup water

Heat oil in a deep skillet. Add celery, carrot and onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables barely begin to brown, about 25 minutes.

Add garlic and rosemary and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in tomato paste and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until mixture is well combined, about 5 minutes.

Add beans, setting them in pan all in one direction. Add 1/2 cup water. Bring to a simmer.

Baste the beans with the cooking liquid a few times, season with salt to taste, and then reduce heat to low. Cook gently, partly covered, turning beans in sauce from time to time, until beans are very tender, about 40 minutes.

Adjust seasoning and serve immediately. They also make delicious leftovers. Enjoy!

grandma

17 Comments

Filed under Food, Sides

Summer’s not over ’til the corn is gone

No sooner had I published my last post welcoming fall and resigning myself to cooler, wetter weather did Seattle throw me for a loop with a return of brilliant sunshine and what could objectively be considered lukewarm temperatures. Huzzah! I thought that maybe summer hadn’t gasped her last breath after all. Of course by the weekend it was cold and rainy again, but we did enjoy that week in between, yes we did. I know my cat was certainly happy he could once again bask in the sun that pours onto our dining room table on a sunny afternoon, if only for a short time. Too bad about us having to eat there. (P.S. don’t worry, I clean the table quite often).

Rocco on the dining room table

My suspicions that the rumors of summer’s earlier demise were greatly exaggerated were confirmed when I went to the farmer’s market and discovered that yes, all the cornerstones of summer produce were still there. And I proceeded to buy a ton of it, eschewing all the newly arrived winter squash for another day.

Winter squash

I bought strawberries and raspberries and corn (oh my!), not to mention, peaches, plums, tomatoes, tomatillos, and a beautiful cantaloupe that was the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. I basically bought everything that said summer.

Summer produce

The one exception I made to this was to buy roasted peppers. One of the stands was roasting them there on the spot in a big cage that had flames shooting up into it (!) and was hand-turned by a crank on the side. It was so cool, I couldn’t resist. The good people of River Farm in Ellensburg, WA were selling three types of roasted peppers: sweet Italians, Poblanos, and Krimzon Lees (awesome name, right?!) I bought all three and am a huge fan – they are all so tasty in their own unique ways.

River Farm peppers

As soon as I got home and spread my haul out on the kitchen counter to admire it, I thought immediately of this recipe for Sautéed Spicy Corn that Molly Wizenberg recently posted about on her blog (one of my favorites), Orangette. I remembered the recipe from when it was first mentioned in an episode of the hilarious Spilled Milk podcast that Molly does with Matthew Amster-Burton, but failed to make a note of it at the time so I was happy to be reminded of it on Molly’s blog. I thought that the ingredients I had gathered from the market would make an excellent riff on the recipe – and man oh man, was I right!

Buttery corn

I used two of the Krimzon Lee roasted peppers (they are the spiciest of the trio sold at the market) instead of a jalapeno, and also added tomatillos to the mix. We ate the corn with thick slices of slightly toasted sourdough bread topped with tomatoes (thanks for that idea too, Molly!) and it was the perfect summer dinner…even if fall is closing in on us.

Dinner!

In fact, I loved this dish so much that I made it again a couple days later – for the second time in a week. I forced, literally forced, myself to go running after an exhausting day of grad school orientation and decided that this dish would be my reward – not chocolate, not ice cream, not potato chips. This corn dish. So, if that doesn’t get to you make it, I don’t know what will.

Matthew’s Spicy Sautéed Corn with Tomatillos

Adapted from Spilled Milk and Orangette
Makes 4 side dish servings, or 2 main servings if for you – like me – it is the whole point of the meal

Molly notes in her adaptation that she used a 10-inch cast-iron skillet. I used a 10-inch stainless steel sauté pan because it was the closest I had, but if you have a cast-iron skillet – of any size – you should use it! I’m pretty sure the cast-iron will give you more of the coveted “delicious brown bits” that Molly and Matthew both talk about. Mine definitely did brown, but not enough for me to need to de-glaze the pan with water, which I’m sure adds more of that delicious caramelized flavor.

  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • Kernels from 3-4 ears fresh corn
  • Half a medium onion, diced
  • 4-5 tomatillos, quartered
  • 3 roasted Krimzon Lee peppers (or any hot pepper you want to use), diced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

First, a note about getting the kernels off of the ear of corn. It is a challenge. I’ve always been told that the best way to capture all the kernels is to cut them off the cob inside of a large bowl. That is still difficult though and can be murder on your knife. But! I learned from a Food Network show, with Guy Fieri of all people, that it works much better if you put a smaller bowl, opening down, inside the larger bowl and use the bottom of that smaller bowl as a platform to cut the corn. Like so:

Bowls for cutting corn

All the corn still goes into the bowl and it doesn’t ruin your knife. Winning!

Ok, so once you do that and prepare your other ingredients per the above, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until bubbling.

Add the corn and onions, stirring to coat with butter. Cook, stirring once, for 2-3 minutes.

Add the tomatillos and roasted peppers and stir all ingredients together well. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn begins to brown and the tomatillos are cooked through but not mushy, about 10 minutes more. Your kitchen will smell heavenly during these 10 minutes.

If your corn does stick to the pan, add a tablespoon or so of water and scrape those browned bits off the bottom (lucky you!) and then let the water boil off.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat, and stir in the lime juice.

Serve immediately.

Tomatillos!

9 Comments

Filed under Food, Sides