Thursday, November 26, 2009

Green Beans

I have about 5 gallon-size bags of beautiful green beans in the freezer from my garden this summer. It makes me happy to pull them out during the winter and remember the glory of those bright, warm days. I have two absolutely fantastic recipes for green beans to share.

The first thing to know about green beans is: to obtain the best texture, you should boil them in a big pot of water for 3-5 minutes. They will turn bright green, and the pot may not even quite return to a boil before they are done. If you steam them they get a bit rubbery, and if you saute them they don't cook fast enough. Drain them in a colander and spray them down with cold water to stop the cooking so they retain their crisp texture.

My friends Sarah and David called up this morning to ask for this recipe, that we served at our wedding celebration this August. So I guess it's time to put it on the blog!  It comes essentially from Mollie Katzen's new cookbook,  The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without, but of course I have modified it a bit.

3 Tbs olive oil
3/4 cup almonds, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely minced
2 Tbs capers
1.5 lbs green beans, prepared as above
Salt

Heat the olive in a large skillet. Add the almonds and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes, until they look and smell toasty. Add the garlic and stir a bit, then turn off the heat. Add the green beans and turn with a spatula or tongs to mix, sprinkling with salt as you go. I was tempted once to just add the salt to the almond mixture, but it all sank to the bottom and was really hard to get mixed in. Voila!

The other wonderful recipe is Gujerati-style Green Beans, adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

4 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs black (brown) mustard seeds
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb green beans, prepared as above

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to crackle and pop, put in the garlic and stir until they just begin to brown. Put in the red chile and stir for a second, then add all the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat down slightly, and stir for a few more minutes so the beans get well-coated and absorb the flavors. So good! Even though this is an Indian recipe, it is good alongside almost anything. I have also made it with powdered yellow mustard.

Cranberry Pie

When most people think of cranberries, all they know is the gelatinous cranberry sauce served at Thanksgiving in the shape of the can!  I love the cranberry relish my grandmother made, basically just a whole orange (peel and all) and fresh cranberries chopped up with a little bit of sugar.

But here is something I just discovered - cranberry pie! It is absolutely incredible. It tastes like Christmas. It reminds me of something I can't put my finger on. My best friend Lora likes it, and she doesn't like fruit in general (yes, weird). Ok, so it's not pretty - I am not that great at making pretty pies, in fact I hate making pie crust so this is just store-bought crust. But inside that ugly shell is pure cinnamony cranberry deliciousness. It calls for cinnamon sticks, which you'd think would be annoying to pick out, but it's actually fun because they taste so wonderful all soaked with sweet cranberry juices.


I have no idea where I got this recipe - I found it on a card, in my handwriting, in my recipe box and I thought it was the one Lora gave me, but when I was telling her about how I'd made it, we quickly realized it's not the same recipe at all!  Anyway, I think her recipe was some kind of family secret, so it's probably better that I don't publish it on my blog... This one is pretty basic.

8 cups fresh cranberries (or frozen, chopped)
2.5 cups sugar
1/3 cup tapioca
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup molasses
3 cinnamon sticks

Mix all but the cinnamon sticks in a large bowl. I used a potato masher to crush them all together, but you could probably just chop the cranberries coarsely first and then mix it all together. Pour into the bottom crust, then tuck the cinnamon sticks in. Put on the top crust (lattice is recommended but I didn't have the patience). Bake at 400 for 60 minutes.

For thickening, I used pearl tapioca, which you can actually see in the photo if you look closely. I don't know whether mine was instant or regular, but instant tapioca or tapioca starch is best. You can also grind up the pearls in a clean coffee grinder or food processor to make tapioca starch.

I'm going to have to buy some more cranberries!
 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Go Greens!

Cooking greens, like kale or broccoli greens (I just recently discovered these are edible!) are something I pretty much never even heard of until I was about 25. And I didn't figure out how to make them so they really taste good until several years later.  Lots of people have never tried them, and many others have not had them done well.

As I said before, I am not a vegetarian.... Recently our friends Nate and Laura gave us the Gift of Meat - 1/4 of a cow!! So we were pretty excited to cook up some steaks this weekend. But you know how when you order steak at a restaurant, it comes with a mountain of mashed potatoes and this pathetic little pile of steamed or fried zucchini, green beans and carrots? That's just sad. What you really need to go along with a big juicy steak is the big strong flavor of a garlicky heap of greens!


Yes, you can chop them up and put them in soup to get your vitamins, but the best flavors of most greens really shine when you saute them in olive oil with plenty of garlic and salt. I did mention beet greens and chard in an earlier post, but the recipe is a bit different because they have a bit of natural saltiness, and a unique flavor.

For kale, start by ripping out the center rib from each leaf because it is pretty tough. For broccoli greens, you don't really have to do this. Then lay all the leaves down on the cutting board and slice through the whole pile to create thin ribbons. Heat up the olive oil on medium high in the largest skillet you have, and throw the whole pile in. If you have a lid for the skillet, put it on so that the greens wilt faster. When they have cooked down a little bit, you can stir them and put in some minced garlic, and salt to taste (use at least 1/4t salt for a panful of kale). Keep frying and stirring until the leaves begin to brown a tiny bit - be careful not to burn them, but this browning will give them a wonderful nutty flavor.

Another fabulous way to eat kale is grilled - rub each leaf with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, then throw them on the grill individually for about 10 seconds - just until they start to turn slightly brown and crispy. It is easy to burn them, so be careful! I got this technique from a gorgeous cookbook called Homegrown, by Michael Nischan with Mary Goodbody. It was actually described as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, and interestingly, the recipe has also been posted on Oprah.com.

And finally - until just recently, I was a bit scared of collard greens. All that talk about boiling them for hours, with bacon, and the funky smell while they're cooking... Well, I finally just tried frying them, with minced red onion, paprika and a little bit of oregano, and they're great! They can be tough, so be sure to take out the center rib, and add a little water to the pan so you can cook them longer if needed. I could eat the whole panful by myself!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sweet Potato Pancakes


I love sweet potatoes, but all those recipes for mashed or candied, with orange juice or marshmallows, get old fast!!  Here is a wonderful, filling, savory pancake for breakfast, lunch or dinner... who doesn't love potato pancakes? These are even better, and quickly becoming my favorite breakfast. The recipe is adapted from Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook (which you may have noticed is one of my all-time faves).

6 cups grated sweet potatoes (in the photo, I have white sweet potatoes and garnet yams)
1 cup grated onion
1 1/2 tsp salt
3-4 Tbs lemon or lime juice (optional)
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup flour

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Heat 2-3 Tbs oil in a large skillet on medium heat, until it is very hot (a fleck of batter should sizzle on contact). Use a spoon to scoop out batter, including the juices at the bottom of the bowl. Form thin pancakes, pressing down with the back of the spoon. Fry on both sides until brown, adding a little more oil if needed. Serve hot, with sour cream or yogurt, and applesauce if you like, although they are plenty sweet.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kohlrabi Pickle

I volunteer at one of the Los Poblanos Organics CSA pickup locations, and it's a great place to pick up new recipes. One of our members came in last week really excited about kohlrabi, and I said - Wow, you must know a good recipe! What are you going to do with it? 

I had tried growing it a few years ago, and it was beautiful but I couldn't figure out what to do with it. I ended up making this stuffed kohlrabi thing, and it was not that great... Let me just say, I am fundamentally against pretty much all "stuffed" vegetables. I mean, you just carve out the inside and mix it with a bunch of bread crumbs or whatever, it takes a bunch of time and energy to assemble, at least an hour to bake, and basically just tastes like flavored bread! By that time, I'm starving and wishing I'd just sauteed it in olive oil, so I could be enjoying the vegetable's full delicious flavor without all that work. And kohlrabi is pretty dense stuff, so it was a big pain chipping out the hard, solid inside just to fill it with fluff!

 
Well, this woman from the CSA said, her mom used to make a kohlrabi pickle! It's really simple. You chop up the kohlrabi into matchsticks and you put them in a jar with minced garlic, and chile flakes if you like that sort of thing (and I do). Then you fill the jar 1/4 of the way with rice vinegar, 1/4 more with water, and the rest with soy sauce. That's it. And oh wow, is it good. Not too soy-saucy as you might imagine - the vinegar and water really balance it out. I ate about half a pint as soon as I was finished making it. It's addictive!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What the hell is a genesimmon?


I discovered persimmons one year in college when I spent Thanksgiving at my friend's aunt's house. She was, to put it mildly, a foodie, and I got introduced to a lot of new things that visit. My friend and I rode the train up to Berkeley and went directly to the restaurant where her aunt worked, for dinner.

Since I couldn't decide between two desserts, Aunt Catherine suggested I have both. One was a persimmon pudding, and I forget what the other one was. I was eighteen and the world was swimming. I'd never been to Berkeley, I'd never met a professional chef, and I'd never had a dessert like this. Aunt Catherine also had a little bowl of persimmons at her house and I had some every day for breakfast while I was there. Persimmons are the ultimate fall fruit.

When I got back from break I emailed all of my friends about the persimmon. My friend Jason replied, "What the hell's a genesimmon?"

The above persimmon is the Fuyu variety. It gets softer as it gets more ripe, but you can pretty much eat it any time, like an apple. The other common variety of persimmon is the Hachiya. It is pointy like an acorn, instead of tomato-shaped like the Fuyu. It is also an astringent variety, which means you must let it ripen until it is a nearly mushy pudding-like blob, so soft you think it must be rotten (but it's not). Otherwise it is terrible to eat.

Back to the Fuyu-- my favorite way to eat it is to peel it, cut it into chunks, and squeeze a lime over it. That's the best. Or, you can make a salad like I remember Aunt Catherine making.

The vinaigrette can be made with about 3 parts walnut oil to one part balsalmic vinegar, salt to taste. If it seems a little sweet, a squeeze of lemon will work things out.

But, if you're like most people and don't have walnut oil in the cupboard (besides, it goes rancid rather quickly), you can make your own with olive oil. First, chop and toast the walnuts for your salad, 4-5 minutes at 350F. Then combine the hot walnuts and the olive oil for your dressing in a pan an heat on low for 5 or 10 minutes. Be careful the walnuts don't get too dark/burnt! Since hot oil doesn't make for good salad dressing, you'll need to chill everything for a bit.

For the rest of the salad, slice Fuyu persimmons and Asian pears; toss with Belgian endive (frisee) or a salad mix, the toasted walnuts, and pomegranate seeds.

My Favorite Beet Recipes

I adore beets. Their deep red color is so sensual, and their smell so earthy. Yes, it's a culinary cliche! I know, you're probably thinking "That's what all beet-lovers say, but I'm not one of them. Beets taste like dirt."  Well, I can't promise these recipes will make you love them, but... more than one of my friends has said they never liked beets before they had them at my house! Of course, it helps to wash them very thoroughly with a brush, and maybe scrape them with a knife to get off the tough parts of the skin.


Beets are super-easy to grow, you can plant them almost any time of the year (maybe not in the dead of winter) and they are pretty pest-free in my experience. Even in the heat of ABQ summers, my beets have not turned woody, although I've heard that can happen. Chard is the exact same species of plant, just a different variety, bred for tender leaves rather than big roots.

My all-time favorite way to eat beets: 
This is a very simple procedure, from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook. Slice them 1/8-1/4" thick and steam them until they are tender. Then while they are still hot, drizzle them with a little bit of vinegar - any kind will do, but I particularly like red wine, white wine, or cider. Sprinkle a few chives over them, and that's it! They really don't even need salt or pepper. The beets are tender but not jellylike, and the flavor is clean and fresh. They're delicious hot, or cold (like on a salad, perhaps with walnuts and goat cheese or gorgonzola). These are Chioggia beets, with alternating pink and white rings - gorgeous!


And if you're feeling a little sad about throwing away that huge bunch of beautiful greens, here's what to do:
Beet greens can be tough, but if you have a good-looking bunch, cut them off and store them separately from the roots. I like to cook them using Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook recipe for chard. This is surprisingly, outrageously delicious. I could eat the whole bowl myself in one sitting!

1.5 lb chard or beet greens, coarsely chopped (including stems)
2-3 Tbs olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
a little salt and lots of pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and chard and stir-fry until limp, perhaps slightly browned. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and vinegar. Serve hot or cold.

And now some fancy stuff:
If you're getting bored with beet salad, try this - Scarlet Quinoa, Beet and Cucumber Salad.  My friend Antonia sent me this recipe after having something similar at someone's house, and since I love beets and I've heard quinoa is good for you... I thought I'd try it.  It is gorgeous!  Very tasty - a light yet hearty cold salad. Food fact: quinoa has the highest amount of protein of any grain!


One of my personal favorites is Beet and Goat Cheese Pizza.  I first had this at a restaurant called Carmelita in Seattle, with golden beets. Wow! All you need is a pizza dough (raw or prepared), then you throw on some olive oil, garlic, beets (steamed, as above), and goat cheese (or maybe gorgonzola!)  Bake it until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling.

Or perhaps you'd like to try a borscht.... My mom always made Mollie Katzen's Russian Cabbage Borscht from the Moosewood Cookbook. But there are zillions of borscht recipes online, and I bet they're all pretty good.  Happy beet-eating!

Yellow Pear Tomato Preserve


This may sound weird, but it is incredibly delicious. I have to grow yellow pear tomatoes every year now, just to make this stuff. It's not difficult to grow enough - the plant grows to a humongous size here in ABQ, and is extremely hardy and prolific.  The preserve is sweet, gingery and mildly tomato-flavored - it's delicious on toast, or on a Thanksgiving-leftover turkey sandwich... seriously, on anything.

There are actually quite a few recipes to be found if you search the internets, but here is the recipe I started with, and I love it! http://www.recipezaar.com/Yellow-Pear-Tomato-Preserves-37317 Thank you, "mysterygirl" for the great recipe.

Here's the recipe in case the link gets broken someday:

8 cups yellow pear tomatoes
1 lemon
3 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons ginger root or 4 tablespoons thinly sliced candied ginger
 
Wash and dry tomatoes. Cut a thin slice from blossom end and press out seeds and discard. Combine tomatoes, sugar and salt, simmer until sugar is dissolved. Boil for about 40 minutes. Add thinly sliced lemon and minced or sliced ginger. Boil about 10 minutes longer. Pour into hot jars and seal at once.