Friday, August 28, 2009


Psst! I realized something important this week: I've been happily making roasted green beans for years now (YEARS, I TELL YOU) and yet have never bothered to post the recipe here. So basically, I've been selfishly keeping roasted green beans a secret all this time, clutching them tightly to my breast in my wizened claws while muttering "Bah humbug! NO ROASTED GREEN BEANS FOR YOU!"

OK, not really. Actually, I just kept forgetting to post the recipe, and then I forgot about it completely for a while and only recently, in the throes of a serious summer passion for green beans, remembered its existence. I'm just trying to sexy this up a little bit, since it's so ridiculously simple it barely seems like a recipe at all. But it's no simpler than roasted asparagus, roasted broccoli, or roasted kale, and just as good, so I suppose it deserves a posting.

Y'all already know that roasting things makes them tasty--browned and delightfully chewy-crunchy, almost addictively snackworthy--and green beans are no different. If you think you don't like a vegetable, I say, try it roasted (it's worked for me with turnips, parsnips, and kale, although I have so far failed to fall in love with roasted beets). And of course, if you love a vegetable, definitely try it roasted. I especially like roasting green beans because--has this ever happened to you? Sometimes you go to the market and you get green beans and they're fantastic, so crisp and juicy you can eat them raw (I actually like raw green beans better than cooked ones; it reminds me of picking them and eating them straight from the garden as a kid). But then other times, even though the beans appear to be just as nice, and you spend an hour carefully choosing the skinny ones and skipping the overmature bulgy ones, you get them home and they're all thick and lumpy and tough and dry and revolting. That happened to me this week, and it was bumming me out until I remembered that roasting is an excellent treatment for non-superstar green beans. High heat transforms all that leathery starchiness back into sweet, sweet sugar (SCIENCE!). For extra excitement, try a mixture of green and yellow beans.

1 pound green beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Coarse salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Wash the beans and dry them well. Place them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and toss well.

3. Roast for 15 minutes, or until beans reach desired degree of doneness, stirring them or shaking the pan a few times so they roast evenly. Season with additional salt, and a little fresh-ground pepper would not be a bad thing either.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Fair. They'll be best right out of the oven, but they're still pretty tasty reheated.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Since I already have an embarrassment of pasta recipes, I try to be pretty cautious about acquiring new ones, but when I saw this recipe in this month’s Cooking Light, it called out to me. After all, I rationalized, I don’t have any pasta recipes involving corn, and corn is so deliciously in season right now, and besides, mixing in a little bacon is the best way to get A to eat his vegetables. Not to mention that cavatappi happens to be my favorite pasta shape—although ironically, when I went to buy it for this dish I suddenly couldn’t find it at the store and had to use “cellentani,” which looks pretty much the same to me but is maybe slightly smaller. Then when I was boiling the pasta I scooped out one noodle to taste to see if it was done, forgetting that the pasta was hollow and thus full of 212-degree water, which promptly dribbled out of the corner of my mouth and down my chin, leaving me with an actual burn, a perfectly vertical pink line, that stung like the dickens for the rest of the evening and made people wonder for the next day or so if I’d had some sort of rogue lip-gloss incident.

ANYWAY. I had to futz with this recipe a little, since it was part of the “Dinner Tonight” part of the magazine and thus called for silly convenience items like bottled minced garlic and prechopped onion. Also, I doubled the amount of pasta, because I don’t like to have half-boxes of pasta cluttering up my cupboards and I love having a stash of leftovers to eat from all week long. So then I had to figure out what to do with the rest of the quantities. I straight-up doubled the garlic, zucchini, cheese, basil, and salt, because it was easy to do and I like those things. I went with 1½ times the number of bacon slices, because 8 just seemed like a lot and I was planning to have 6 servings of pasta (I actually ended up with more like 7), so one bacon slice per serving seemed reasonable. I also intended to do 1½ times the amount of corn, or 3 ears instead of 2, but my ears must have been honkin’ compared to the ones Cooking Light used, because they called for 1 cup of kernels and I got over 3 cups. So I’m just saying 3 ears of corn. I didn’t increase the onion (because I only had 1 onion) or the tomatoes (because a pint already seemed like a lot), and it was a good thing I didn’t, because when fully assembled, the pasta and sauce barely fit in my big skillet—this is a ton of veggies, and curly pasta takes up a lot of space. But the tomatoes are so good in the finished dish (I’m really loving grape/cherry tomatoes this year for some reason), I’d maybe increase to 1½ pints if I had them available.

ANYWAY. Since it’s basically just bacon, vegetables, and pasta with a few seasonings thrown in, this recipe is pretty flexible, so do whatever you feel like. The online version even says “use whatever veggies you have on hand,” though I’m partial to this particular combo. I know I’ve been using this word a lot, but it’s just so summery! The only thing I’d change next time would be to actually pour a little of the bacon fat out of the pan before adding the onion and garlic; I had a lot of it, and the finished dish was ever-so-slightly on the greasy side. The bacon fat adds wonderful flavor and keeps the dish moist, but I could have done with a bit less—after all, you can always loosen things up with some olive oil or reserved pasta water after you’ve assembled everything if it looks too dry.

ANYWAY. I loved this. I will make it again, probably within a month. I wish I were eating it for lunch today. You should try it, too.

1 pound cavatappi or other curly pasta
6 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
1 large onion, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 medium-large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
3 medium-large ears fresh corn (remove kernels and discard cobs)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved if large
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.

2. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon, reserving drippings in pan. Add onion and garlic to pan; sauté 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in corn and tomatoes; cook 5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to break down, stirring occasionally.

3. Add pasta to vegetable mixture; toss. Cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add ½ cup cheese, bacon, basil, salt, and pepper; toss to combine. Serve sprinkled with remaining cheese.

Serves: 6–8
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: High

Friday, August 14, 2009


On Tuesday night, I had to pick A up at the airport at an awkward hour of the evening: several hours after the end of the workday (I work right next to the airport), but too early for me to drive all the way home in rush-hour traffic and then all the way back. Luckily, my friend M, who lives on the airport side of town, graciously allowed me to impose on her family’s hospitality and spend the post-work/pre-airport time at their home. They even fed me a tasty dinner. I owed them big time—but luckily, at least the fruit salad I brought turned out to be delicious.

A fruit salad is always a nice option to have at a potluck, barbeque, or picnic (although as a non-eater of most melons, I always feel conspicuous as I try to pick around the omnipresent cantaloupe and honeydew therein), but I never crave fruit salads in my everyday life. Good fruit doesn’t require any adornment, and eating a single fruit at a time is fine by me. Fruit is usually the easy side dish or afterthought in our meals, requiring no more preparation than washing and cutting, and I don’t see the point in complicating things. But then I saw this recipe, originally adapted from Giada de Laurentis, on Cheap Healthy Good, and it sounded so good, with the mojito-like flavors of mint and lime plus the intriguing addition of almond flavoring, which I love. I could make it with three of my favorite fruits—strawberries, blueberries, and peaches (I would have added watermelon, which is frequently paired with mint, but I was at the farmers’ market alone and already had too much to carry without the addition of a huge, heavy melon). I could make it ahead of time. And making simple syrup, prepping the fruit, and whirling the dressing ingredients together in a blender sounded like a manageable amount of work for a Monday night.

I was not wrong. The salad was a little soupy when I served it the next evening (I blame a bunch of the blueberries, which turned out to be squishy right out of the package), but I loved it and it was well received. I had been a little worried that so much mint would dominate the fruit, but it didn’t—blended into the dressing, the mint added a bright, fresh flavor without tasting like a stick of gum. The dressing was sweet, but not too sweet. The salad was supposed to yield 10 servings, but we three adults and two kids pretty much polished it off (well, I had also set aside about a bowl of it for A at home). I will definitely be making this again, and not just for parties, but for regular old home eatin’. What a perfect, refreshing dessert for a hot summer day.

You can use just about any summer fruit you want in this salad (the original version had watermelon and the dreaded cantaloupe, while Cheap Healthy Good’s included mango), but here’s what I did:

1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 pint blueberries
3 peaches, peeled and cubed
⅛ cup simple syrup (1 part sugar to 1 part water; see instructions below)
¼ cup lime juice (about 3 limes)
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
⅛ teaspoon almond extract

1. To make simple syrup, bring water to a boil in a small pot (I used ½ cup, because any smaller amount just seemed unmanageably tiny even for my smallest saucepan; leftover simple syrup can be refrigerated in a glass jar for up to 1 month, either to make more fruit salad later or to make beverages such as lemonade or cocktails). Stir in an equal amount of sugar until dissolved completely. Remove from heat and allow to cool (if you’re in a hurry, stick it in the fridge) while prepping fruit.

2. Wash, peel, and chop fruit as desired.

3. In a blender, combine simple syrup, lime juice, chopped mint, and almond extract.

4. Toss dressing over fruit.

5. Chill (overnight is good) and serve.

Serves: 5-10
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


This recipe, from Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day, tastes exactly as you’d expect, and I mean that in the best way possible. If you have sweet corn, tomatoes, and green beans at the peak of their fresh summer perfection, you don’t need to do much to them beyond a few minutes of cooking and a quick toss in a light vinaigrette. I quartered the recipe, and the big bowl of delicious veggies, served with a quesadilla on the side, made a perfect it’s-too-hot-to-stand-over-the-stove weeknight meal for one—particularly since I had already-cooked corn kernels ready to go, cut off an ear I’d boiled the night before while making myself some corn on the cob, which enabled me to skip Step 1 and part of step 3. I used some mixed heirloom cherry tomatoes, which always seem to work more neatly in salads than chunks from a bigger tomato, and just one herb (basil), since I needed such a small quantity. I’m looking forward to making more next time, with a full array of herbs, as a light side dish for me and A, and a full batch would also make a great salad option for a picnic or cookout. It just tastes like summer.

4 medium ears corn
2 medium ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), cored and cut into ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
¼ cup minced fresh herbs (especially basil, tarragon, chives, parsley, and cilantro)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound green beans, ends snapped off

1. Remove the husks and silk from the corn. Cut the ears in half crosswise with a chef’s knife, stand each piece on its cut end, and slice downward several times to remove all the kernels (discard the cobs). You should have about 2½ cups kernels.

2. Bring several quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. While waiting for the water to boil, combine the tomatoes, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a large serving bowl. Set aside.

3. Add the beans and salt to taste to the boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the corn and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, 2 to 3 minutes longer. Drain, shake dry, and then spread the vegetables over a clean towel so they dry quickly. Let cool to room temperature.

4. When the beans and corn are just barely warm (this will take about 10 minutes), toss them with the tomato mixture. Adjust the seasonings. Serve at room temperature. (This salad can be covered and set aside for up to 2 hours.)

Serves: 4–6
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: I didn't have any leftovers, but I imagine this would be fine the next day.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Sorry my posting’s been spotty lately; I’ve been hot, busy, and a little uninspired. My love affair with my ice-cream maker fizzled during the summer’s first real heat wave, when the warmth of our un-air-conditioned apartment combined with the feebleness of our freezer to produce honey ice cream that tasted spectacular but had the consistency of a cool beverage. (I’ll try again when temperate weather returns and write a proper post about it.) A’s been out of town twice, leaving me cooking for one or subsisting on leftovers, and then for 10 days I was away from my kitchen, on a week-long Midwestern vacation that included a roadtrip through Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas (to visit three presidential libraries: Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower).

We spent less than 12 hours in Kansas City, during at least 8 of which we were busy sleeping, but I made sure our visit included dinner at Arthur Bryant’s, made famous in Calvin Trillin’s classic food book American Fried, which my father started reading to me while I was practically still in the cradle (I believe I even tried to an excerpt as a speech piece in middle school, but was persuaded to switch to The Call of the Wild or some such malarkey instead). Here is my glorious pulled-pork sandwich:

The next day, in Independence, I discovered a new taste sensation thanks to Harry Truman:

That’s the Harry’s Favorite, chocolate ice cream with butterscotch sauce, at Clinton’s Soda Fountain, where Truman worked as a teenager. I’m a big fan of butterscotch sauce and try to order it whenever I see it offered, in order to encourage its continued existence; it seems to be gradually giving way to the more preferred contemporary non-chocolate, non-fruit sundae topping, caramel. But I’d never had it on chocolate ice cream, and I must say I was impressed. Truman had good taste.

Although we were cruelly denied a meal at one of Kansas's famous fried-chicken destinations, the trip did include some other non-photographed food highlights, including my first tastes of cherry jam and blackberry wine (yum and yum), and excellent peach cobbler and beer at Free State Brewing in Lawrence, Kansas. But during my trip, I missed a CSA delivery, forcing P to singlehandedly dispatch three heads of lettuce and thirtysomething small zucchini. I returned just in time for this, the last box of the summer quarter already!

The cast of characters:
1 bunch arugula
1 head lettuce
1 head…some other kind of lettuce?
1 bizarre, alien-looking cucumber
1 head broccoli
5 zucchini
2 tomatoes
2 onions
6 Yukon Gold potatoes
3 Valencia oranges

I'm mystified by that one bunch of greens on the left. The leaves are a darker green, like spinach, but not as thick. I'm sure it's just some sort of lettuce, but I haven't come up with anything to do about it yet. Everything else, though, I'm on top of: The oranges can be eaten as snacks, and the onions can sit in the cupboard until I’m ready for them. I’ve already eaten the ruffly head of lettuce on a BLT and in salads, accompanied by slices from the weirdo long, skinny, curvy cucumber (I’d forgotten how good cucumber is on a BLT). Last night I made a tomato sauce from the tomatoes, mixed in the arugula, and served it over linguine (recipe coming later this week). When A gets back we’ll have roasted broccoli with Parmesan and lemon, zucchini fritters, and maybe some oven fries—after all, we need something we can dip into the barbecue sauce I brought back from Arthur Bryant’s!

The last CSA box was so long ago, I’ve already forgotten what I did with the contents, so I won’t bore you with the recap. I’m sad to see the season end and am not sure whether I’ll be signing up for the fall quarter yet—P may be out of the country for a month, and I just can’t handle a whole box on my own, particularly since I work from home on the days the box is delivered and rely on P to pick it up. I must say, though, that the veggie selection just wasn’t as interesting as it was in the winter. I adored the honey and am so happy to have discovered Italian flat beans, and that one week we got avocados was lovely and the oranges were nice, but everything else was pretty standard, and about comparable to what I get at the farmers’ market anyway. The thrill was much more in the suspense and the surprise, and the challenge of having to plan a menu around certain preassigned ingredients.