Thursday, August 7, 2008

The green bean party

I'm a little late in joining up with Deb and Margaret, but that won't keep me from posting. I am one of the people who loves, loves, loves green beans. My kids gag at the sight of them, and my husband pushes them around his plate, except when I serve him this warm salad, which I make even in the depths of winter, with the (really quite good) frozen organic green beans available at Trader Joe's.

Warm Green Bean Salad

1/2 lb green beans, blanched in boiling water until tender (usually 2-3 minutes, depending upon the thickness of the beans) and then refreshed under cool, running water
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shaved parmesan (easiest to use a vegetable peeler
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t champagne vinegar
2 t balsamic vinegar
1/2 t dijon mustard
1 T chopped fresh tarragon (optional, but makes it great)
1/8 t lemon oil (optional, but as above)
coarse salt & freshly ground pepper

Combine the olive oil, vinegars, mustard, tarragon, lemon oil, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper in a jar with a lid; close and shake to emulsify; transfer to a small bowl.

Toast the walnuts in a small saute pan over medium heat until they are hot and fragrant but not burnt; add to the salad dressing and stir to combine. Pour the warm dressing/nut mixture over the beans and toss gently. Sprinke the cheese over the top and serve.

For another idea for using green beans, read this post from earlier in the summer.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What's cooking

No one has much of a reason to leave the Hudson Valley in the summertime. And yet, many of us do just that. We find ourselves drawn towards even bigger waters: the Cape, an Island or three, or in my case, Maine. In a few days, we depart for a brief visit with friends in their seaside summer idyll, a lobster-indulged, oceanic-viewed version of what I luckily live year round. And so--it's time to clean out the fridge and the larder.

Tonight, to that end, I concocted yet another gratin, an adaption of one I enjoyed earlier this year from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I added some eggs and cheese, but otherwise this is quite similar to the one that appears in that fantastic book. (Really, just buy it already. If you are at all experienced as a cook, you won't regret it. If you're just starting out, you might curse me while you're cooking, but not when you finally sit down to eat. Your call.) Alongside, I served the last of the latest planting of mache and arugula from my sorry excuse for a garden, in a salad made with the first local corn I've bought this season and some more tomatoes (nearly as local as it gets, save from one's own garden: from an honor system roadside stand just down the road.)

Not a bad way to clean house.

Tomato, Onion and Potato Gratin

4 large onions, sliced thinly
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 t dried thyme, divided
kosher salt
4-5 large red potatoes or small-medium Yukon Golds (mine were reds, from the CSA)
3 medium tomatoes
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup heavy cream
pinch of cayenne
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat--I like to use a cast iron one, and prepare the dish start to finish in it. Add the onion, stirring frequently as it starts to brown. Add 1 teaspoon of the dried thyme and a pinch of kosher salt. Turn the heat down to low, and continue to cook and stir, adding water (maybe, say, a quarter cup) if they start to stick too much to the pan. Continue cooking until they are soft and caramelized, stirring occasionally. When they are evenly browned and soft, remove from the heat. Add the pinch of cayenne and stir thoroughly. (Omit the cayenne if it scares you.)

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch thick (thinner is fine, if you can manage it!) slices, either by hand or on a mandoline. Don't bother to peel them. Core the tomatoes and cut into 1/4 inch slices.

Combine the beaten eggs, the cream, the remaining teaspoon of thyme and the potatoes and stir to coat the potatoes thoroughly.

Remove half the onions from the skillet and spread the rest evenly over the bottom. Put in haf the potatoes, arranging them in a layer, and then half the tomatoes. Then make a final layer that nicely alternates potatoes and tomatoes--pour over any cream mixture remaining in the bowl. Top with the grated parmesan and a grating of fresh pepper and cover tightly with foil. Turn the oven down to 375 and bake for 90 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft (test by poking with a paring knife.)

Remove the foil, and turn the oven up to 450 F. Return to the oven and cook for ten more minutes or so, removing when the top is nicely browned. Serve hot, warm or cold.

Tomato and Corn Salad

2 or more handfuls of salad greens--enough to form a nice base for the corn and tomato mixture
1 medium tomato, diced
2 ears of corn, kernels sliced off (easiest to do this by holding the ear of corn vertically in a shallow bowl, and slicing down its length with a short paring knife.)
1 T each chopped fresh flat leaf parsley and basil, or whatever fresh herbs you like: dill, chives or even cilantro, if you like it, would be tasty
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
Maldon salt & freshly ground pepper

Lay the greens in your serving bowl. Combine the corn, tomato and herbs in another bowl, and add the oil and vinegar. Toss to combine. Place the corn mixture on top of the greens, and serve a bit of each (corn mixture and greens) when ready to eat. This salad can sit for a bit in the fridge, since you haven't dressed the greens with the vinegar--they won't get soggy as fast as if they, too, were tossed.

Not Cheesey

My friend Cupcake Show (she has a real name, but I so like her nom de blog) spent part of her weekend doing something I've never done and cannot wait to do--making her own fresh mozzarella. Check out her experiences here, and let me know if you've ever done this--my husband is somewhat horrified by the cheesemaker fantasies he knows I harbor (and which portend the eventual arrival of beautiful goats to our little farm...)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happy happenings

While I may have forgotten my pickup this week (and I'm still a little mystified as to just how that happened) I have been cooking and writing up a storm. Check out my new recipe (and new gig) over at Rural Intelligence. And, if you've found the blog via that story, welcome, and I hope you'll let me know what you think, and come back!