Saturday, May 30, 2015

Beans and Greens (part 2!)

I've been eating out of tupperware a lot these days. Somehow, despite being currently a little under scheduled (I've gotten far too much sleep this week), I'm always busy during mealtimes. I eat in class, I eat in the hallway outside my lab, I eat standing on the sidewalk between houses while out canvassing. There are no fewer than four forks in my purse. Most of the time, planning and cooking decent meals a couple days in advance makes me feel like a successful adult. Yesterday, having carefully made and packed my lunch the prior evening, I pulled the tupperware out of the refrigerator and promptly abandoned it on the countertop.

I feel a little sacrilegious saying this, but you should ignore that other beans and greens thing I posted a couple weeks back. I was clearly drunk (I wasn't drunk). I'm so sorry Orangette lady... you are still my favorite, I promise! It's just that I've been eating these beans and greens nonstop for a couple weeks now, and it seemed unfair not to write about them. Also, my sister asked for the recipe.

(totally imaginary) friendship with the Orangette lady: canceled.

In my second sacreligious move today, this recipe started with me soaking (gasp!) and cooking giant white beans from scratch. And no, I'm not changing the title of my blog... it's just that I couldn't find canned giant white beans anywhere, and I really love them. They're so giant! I also like that they're technically limas, because as a child my mother refused to allow anything bearing that name into her kitchen. You're never to old for a little bean-based teenage rebellion.

So yes, I soaked my beans. Luckily, a week later I ended up finding canned- hiding in a corner behind a bunch of chickpeas. I am happy to report that the recipe works just fine with canned, although with a gun to my head I might admit that I prefer the home-soaked version. Please don't tell anyone.

One last note- I am not normally a mis-en-place kind of a girl. In this case, however, having all the ingredients set out and measured ahead of time is kind of necessary.

Pan-fried giant white beans with kale
Adapted (very slightly) from 101 Cookbooks by way of Food52

1 bunch kale (dinosaur is easiest, but I've used curly!)
~2 cups cooked large white beans
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1.5 Tbs lemon juice
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
~2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
zest of one lemon (highly optional)

1. Remove stems from the kale, then chop it finely (I like mine pretty much shredded). Wash, then leave to dry in a colander while you assemble other ingredients

2. Warm the olive oil over medium-high heat in a wide skillet. Add the beans, in a single layer, then leave them alone- you want them to brown, or at least get golden and a little crispy. When one side has cooked (somewhere around 5 minutes, in my experience), use the fattest spatula you have to flip them over and crips the other side. At this point, add additional olive oil if necessary.

3. When both sides of the beans are cooked, add the kale and salt to the pan and toss gently. The original recipe suggests cooking the kale less than a minute, but I've found I like mine a little softer, so I turn the heat down and let the kale cook a while, until it starts visibly slumping.

4. When the kale is cooked as you like it, toss in the walnuts and garlic, wait 10 seconds, then stir in the nutmeg. Wait another 10 seconds then stir in lemon juice (and zest, if you've got it!). Take the pan off the heat and serve, with parmesan on top.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Warm Green Beans and Potatoes with Sliced Eggs and Grilled Onions

I still haven't eaten those sardines... they're sitting on my shelf, judging me. I keep buying Triscuits and eating all of them before I remember that I was supposed to eat them with sardines. I'd like to pretend that it's just coincidence, but the truth is I haven't eaten a sardine since my first foray into blogging, and I'm afraid I won't be able to do it. Triscuits on the couch are much less complicated. Triscuits are never a challenge.

Speaking of challenges, I've been struggling to write here recently, and I'm not sure why. Maybe moving took it out of me. Maybe it's because I've (finally) started telling people about this blog, and I'm all sorts of nervous. Maybe it's because I'm taking my food pictures with an iphone, and in this age of instagramed everything I'm a little embarrassed about the quality of my photography.

On the other hand, it makes me irrationally happy that blogger's spellcheck doesn't recognize instagram as a word... although it might just be snarky competition on behalf of the corporate folks. I wonder if it recognizes WordPress? What about Tumblr? Hmm. Yes on both counts.

Anyways, I like this photo. It was definitely still taken with my iphone (hey there, grainy quality!), but I managed to take the thing before my kitchen got dark. More importantly, the eggs are beautiful. One of the best things about my new hippie-commune home- one of the best things so far about living in Utah, honestly- is that the girls next door raise chickens, and sell the eggs to the community. I am now living in perfect, fresh egg heaven. The orange color of those yolks is everything.

The salad above was made for a community potluck (sensing a theme?) but it's a recipe I've had forever. It actually came from the same book as that cucumber soup I wrote about so long ago- the first cookbook I ever owned. I've since discovered via google that it was called "Fresh Food Fast", a stupid title if I ever heard one, but in this case it's accurate. I call it dinner in a bowl, and the hippies ate all of it. 

Warm Green Beans and Potatoes with Sliced Eggs and Grilled Onions
Adapted slightly from Fresh Food Fast

1 large red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch wedges 
2 lbs small new potatoes (or other yellow potatoes) cut into bite-sized chunks
1 lb green beans, trimmed
4 large eggs
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a large heavy skillet (cast iron works great) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until deeply browned all over, stirring occasionally. It's ok if they get a little charred.

In whatever bowl you intend to use for serving, whisk together the vinegar mustard thyme and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, then add the cooked onions and toss to coat.

Meanwhile, cook the potatoes eggs and green beans. If you have a steamer insert, steam the potatoes- I don't, so I covered the potatoes with about an inch of water, brought the whole thing to a boil, then let it simmer for ~20 minutes. Yours might take more or less time, depending on how you cut your potatoes. Green beans get blanched- boil a big pot of water, then toss the green beans in for about three minutes. Hard boil eggs however you'd like- I prefer to bring a pot of water to a boil, add the eggs, then turn off the heat and let them sit for 12 minutes. 

The above reminds me of a math problem, actually- how do you cook all those things while minimizing pots of water? Any clever people in the audience want to solve it for me?

Slice the hard boiled eggs- I do mine just in half- then toss the whole salad together. Voila!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

One-trick pony

The summer after my freshman year in college I mailed a birthday cake... for real! California to Connecticut. The trick, I learned, was to bake it directly into glass tupperware and then ship the whole thing. Flat-rate boxes are key. I'm still a little proud of it.

I'm also still making that cake. Turns out if you go to college claiming you can cook, you get asked to make a lot of birthday cakes. I'm not much for baking on my best days, but even still... I hate cake. It's boring and full of sugar. Why doesn't anyone ever want a birthday salad? If birthday salads were a thing, I can confidently say I would have 20% more friends.

Where was I? Oh right. Making cake for the friends I actually have.

This week I decided to make a pacman cake, ostensibly for my friend's birthday but really because it was on my life list. I'd envisioned something like this, or this, and had ruined a whole batch of batter before I realized that I am not actually a wizard. Why would I insist on making pacman multi-layered? Why is one of my mixers broken? Why don't I have smaller cake pans?

This recipe deserves better. It may be the only cake I know, but it's absolutely earned its keep. I've made it for birthdays, going away parties, the first rehearsal of the semester... it's moist, rich and absolutely perfect. It will impress college freshman and chorus directors alike. It makes unbelievably good cupcakes. And sometimes, if you're patient, it will even become pacman.

Happy Sunday,

Chocolate Cake with Buttermilk and Coffee
Slightly adapted from a recipe by Janet Dalton

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use hershey's dark)
1 T baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup coffee
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350. Combine eggs and sugar, either with an electric mixer or by hand, until light colored. Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl, and all liquids in a second. Incorporate the coffee mixture and dry ingredients into the egg mixture, alternating but starting and ending with dry. Pour into prepared pans* and bake until a pick comes out clean- about 20 minutes for cupcakes, longer for cakes.

*I find this recipe makes around 24 cupcakes, and that I consistently overfill the muffin cups. THIS BATTER WILL RISE A LOT