Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Green Beans with Red Onions and Mustard Seeds

Summer arrived on Sunday.  Hot, humid and not a breeze to be felt.  Sometime during the night, the air conditioning clicked on and mostly stayed on all day.  Potted flowers and herbs needed a second drink of water at bedtime.  Sunday was the first day of 90 degree weather in these parts.  Up until then, it had been very pleasant.  Just enough rain to keep the grass and plants happy.

The down side of this ideal weather--atypical weather to be sure--has been the effect on many farm crops.  What happens in the long term remains to be seen.  Many seasonal crops like tomatoes need warmer temperatures to be at their best and you all know how I love the tomato!  We've managed to stock up each week at our farmers' market but the variety isn't as great.  I particularly mourn the lack of heirloom tomatoes.  We'll see how these "dog days" of August treat the plants.

We have been getting some excellent green beans each week.  And I had just the recipe to try.  I found it in the August 2001 Gourmet.  Once again, I've been trying to let go of some of my many, many issues.  I'm not doing very well.  Not only is this a delicious dish, it can be made ahead a set aside which I appreciate when trying to get dinner on the table.  It is a company worthy dish!

Green Beans, Red Onions and Mustard Seed Vinaigrette from Gourmet

3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds green beans

For the vinaigrette:
1.  Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, until just hot but not sizzling hot.  Add the mustard seeds and stir until they just start to pop and are slightly darkened.  This will only take 2 minutes or less.  Transfer, along with the oil, to a large bowl.
2.  In a microwavable cup/bowl, heat the vinegar and sugar on high for 20 seconds.  Stir to dissolve the sugar.
For the onion and beans:
3.  Heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of oil in the skillet, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until a deep reddish brown, 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar, then add to the mustard seed and oil.
4.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the green beans and lower the heat.  Cover and simmer until crisp tender--about five minutes.  Drain and toss in the dressing.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve at room temperature.


Friday, August 22, 2014


Thanks to all of you who offered tips on how to produce non-mushy rice.  I'll be incorporating those tips when making my next fried rice dish.  

I'm planning to put up some pesto for the coming winter.  I heard that another Polar Vortex is predicted.  I plan to be prepared.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Goldilocks and the Fried Rice

It all started with leftover pork tenderloin and a taste for Asian flavors.  I made a quick trip to pick up some rice.  Rice is not a staple in my pantry.  Yes, I'm from that great Commonwealth of Virginia, a mid-south state.  No, I didn't grow up on rice (or grits either).  I remember a few times having rice pudding at the home of a relative.  Imagine my surprise when, ending up in Charleston, S.C. a few decades ago, I walked down an aisle in the Piggly Wiggly and saw fifty pound bags of rice!!  It still did not become a staple in my kitchen, but I enjoyed it at the table of others.

Back to my fried rice.  I picked up the store brand of regular white rice and followed the recipe on the bag.

Goldilocks was not impressed.

First try:  Too mushy!
Second try:  Too dry!
Third try:  NOT just right!  Still mushy.

What am I doing wrong?  Wrong rice?  Wrong technique?  How do Chinese take-outs get it right every time?  How do you?

The flavors were good.  The texture was .... mushy.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Musings

I grew up in a family that ate breakfast
every morning.  Usually the meal consisted of eggs, bacon,
biscuits or toast and fruit.
I don't remember ever having dry cereal.
Oatmeal appeared on the table occasionally.  It was always 
topped with a small pat of butter, 
a sprinkling of brown sugar
and milk.

The Baker and I agree
that, if we ever have to give up one meal a day,
it will not be breakfast.

I'd thought about having breakfast on the porch
this morning.  At 7 a.m., the temperature
was 68 degrees--a little too cold
so, we stayed inside and enjoyed fresh fruit,
coddled eggs, toast and
several cups of strong coffee.

Bring on the day!

Have a great week!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Crab Cakes

One of my Charleston friends recently posted on Facebook that she was taking her grandsons crabbing.  For the price of chicken necks and stout string, one can haul in a nice mess of crab from a dock or pier in the low country.  Crab Cakes were an inexpensive meal to put on the table.  And, don't even get me started on She Crab Soup.  An added benefit was entertaining the children for an afternoon catching those critters.

Well, needless to say, neither dish is inexpensive to bring to the table here in the midwest.  One of the first dinner parties we planned here found me at the Chicago Fish House seeking fresh crab.  I stepped up to the counter and boldly ordered two pounds of the crab.  I should have looked at the price!  My face must have registered my shock because the lady at the cash register said "not from around here?"!!  I took my very dear crab home thinking that the next dinner party would be prime rib, which was considerably cheaper.

Sometimes, though, you just have to have crab.  I think it has gotten cheaper (Costco) or I've gotten over the cost.  This recipe is one of the best I've tried.  It comes from a very, very old Gourmet.  Sometimes I add a tartar sauce and sometimes just a squeeze of lemon.

(Gourmet Magazine)

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, beaten slightly
6 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 pounds lump crab meat, picked over for shells
2 cups fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup vegetable oil
lemon wedges to accompany

In a bowl whisk together the butter, eggs, sour cream, parsley, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, and cayenne and gently stir in the crab meat and bread crumbs.  Form 1/2 cup measures of the mixture into twelve thick crab cakes and transfer to a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with half of the cornmeal.  Sprinkle the rest of the cornmeal over the crab cakes and chill them, covered with plastic wrap, for at least an hour to overnight.

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.  Saute the crab cakes in batches, turning them once, for three to four minutes on each side, or until golden brown.  

Serve with tartar sauce.

Makes 12 crab cakes, serving 6.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Slow Cookers, Blackened Pots and Pans, and Roasted Green Beans

I don't have a slow cooker.  A long, long time ago, I read or someone told me or I dreamed that:
1.  They maintained food at just the right temperature for bacteria to grow and, 2.  They turned all food into mush and, 3.  You should never leave them alone or they'd burn your kitchen down.  O.K., I was young and naive.  Through the ensuing years, I've seen many good recipes using those cookers.  It has suddenly dawned on me that, if they were that bad, the news should be full of the catastrophes caused by those cookers.

In light of my enlightenment, I've decided to purchase a slow cooker.  I need advice from you, dear readers.  Recommendations, really.  What kind of slow cooker do you recommend?  What size?

Moving on to roasted green beans.  I've roasted many vegetables but never green beans.  Saturday's market had an abundance of them.  As I was putting some into a bag, another customer asked how I planned to fix them.  Before I could answer, she asked if I ever roasted them.  Here's her recipe.

Oven Roasted Green Beans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1 pound of green beans
Tbsp of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the beans with the olive oil, salt and pepper

Spread out on a pan large enough to hold in a single layer and roast about 20 minutes or until the beans begin to shrivel and turn brownish.


Do your baking pans look like mine?  Is it time to purchase new ones?  I'll save that discussion for another post.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Cold Vegetable Soup to Sip

I've found that some people don't like cold soups.  My introduction to cold soup came at a Polish restaurant in London.  It was basically buttermilk and cucumbers.  It was delicious!  Cold beet soup and cold carrot soup come to our table frequently in the summer.

Last summer, a friend served a most delicious soup at a summer luncheon.  Several of us asked for the recipe but she seemed a bit reluctant to share.  I realize that it is o.k. to keep some recipes secure in the recipe box.  A few weeks ago, she invited me for lunch and once again served the soup in a crystal bowl.  Oh my!  It was even tastier than I'd remembered.  As I was leaving, she said "I'm giving you the recipe.  Share it on your blog if you'd like".  Instead of handing me a recipe card, she told me how to make the soup.

I served it to Andrew, who liked it and suggested that it would be good sipped through a straw.  I agree.

Here is her recipe:

Chilled Vegetable Soup from Anita 

1 46 ounce can of V-8 juice
8 oz of plain yogurt

Whisk until well blended and chill.
With Anita's blessing, I added a dash of Sriracha and the juice of a whole lime