Betsey beans!

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I’m always up for something new, especially when it comes to food — cooking or just eating it. So when Gil told me about a new gourmet food store that recently opened one town over, I could hardly contain my excitement and rushed there the very next day to see what it was about. Well! Zeytinia exceeded my expectations by a mile and we’ve already paid them three visits in one week. Their olive bar is a thing of beauty and sampling the varieties of honey could keep me busy for a year, easily. But where they really shine, IMHO, is in the produce section. The freshness of the fruits and vegetables alone would beat our local grocery, but they also have a variety I haven’t seen in this area.

As I was deciding between fava beans and cranberry beans (neither of which I’d cooked before), Gil made my decision for me: “Hey, those cranberry beans look like they were designed by Betsey Johnson!” (Reason 1, 375 why I adore this man so.) I only bought a small sampling just in case they turned out to be nothing special. I needn’t have worried, as it turned out. The test batch I made last night was so good, we found ourselves back at the store this morning for more, where I served as an ambassador for the beans, explaining how to cook them to a customer who stopped to ask. All I did was simmer the shelled beans in about 2 inches of water with a couple of whole garlic cloves, some peppercorns, and a few sage leaves. When they were soft but not mushy, I drained them, added salt and olive oil, and let them sit on the counter till they reached room temperature.

The beans had a very meaty, almost umami flavor and played well with a dandelion green salad and grilled skirt steak. I just used my regular old preparation of marinating the steak in oil (avocado, this time — another new purchase), garlic, and fresh herbs, then grilling over high heat.

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The avocado oil had a beautiful green intensity you probably can’t see here, and a smoother flavor than the grassy olive oil I usually use. It was a good purchase, I’d say. It made a delicious dressing for the dandelion greens, as well, when mixed with sherry vinegar (to add sweetness to the bitter greens), roasted garlic, and a touch of Dijon mustard.

By the way, cranberry beans lose their beautiful pink swirly flair when cooked, but turn so delicious, the trade-off isn’t painful at all.

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Making the most of what we have

The idea of throwing out food is anathema to those of us who grew up in families that maybe didn’t have so much money. My aunts can squeeze a nickel till it bleeds, my dad would rather cut off his left hand than let anything wither in his garden, and my grandma always saved her cooking oil (and bacon grease, natch) because of the starving kids in China. The plight of malnourished Indian children weighed more heavily on my other grandma’s conscience, so she recycled the bread crusts I demanded cut from my sandwiches into her bread pudding. My family was green before green was cool, or something.

So when I noticed a bunch of arugula wilting in the crisper drawer, a container of ricotta’s expiration date fast approaching, and a big hunk of pancetta taunting me from it’s perch, I knew something had to be done. After eating tomatoes every single day for almost a week, a sauce wasn’t at the top of my list, so I threw together an arugula and nectarine salad topped with spicy caramelized pancetta. And yes, in case you were wondering, caramelized pancetta is just as good as you imagined.

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The ricotta I felt was best saved for dessert, specifically for a scrumptious-sounding recipe for chocolate and ricotta cupcakes I found while perusing Orangette last week. Since we had all of the ingredients on hand, Gil got to work sifting and mixing. (He’s adding to his repertoire, which is scrambled eggs, chocolate chip cookies, and now these cupcakes.) Though there was a distinct lack of swirl in the cupcakes (for which I take full responsibility, as I was the designated swirler), they were delicious enough to tempt the cupcake gnome from his hiding place. I caught a glimpse of him running away and shaking his fist, a flurry of crumbs wafting to the ground. He seemed to approve of my thrifty ways, if the liner was any indication:

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recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Making the most of what we have”

A simple summer salad

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For once, bad weather in the area screwed up everyone else‘s commute and didn’t affect mine at all. Hurrah! Between the uneventful trip and RESTORED AIR CONDITIONING at my office, I was feeling very fortunate, indeed. But it was still pretty darned hot out there and I didn’t want to heat up the kitchen when I got home, so the only thing I cooked indoors was a small pot of quinoa to use as the base of a Greek-inspired summer salad.

There’s no real recipe, as I just threw in handfuls of whatever we had in the fridge. That amounted to sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, baby spinach, green onions, kalamata olives, and copious amounts of oregano, thyme, and parsley. To complete the dish, I grilled asparagus and lemon-and-garlic marinated shrimp, then tossed the everything with a garlicky lemon vinaigrette.

It was very tasty and pretty easy to assemble, but I think my favorite part of the meal was the side — grilled feta. If you’re a cheese lover and haven’t tried this yet, you really should. Just cut a block of feta in half lengthwise, brush both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with oregano, thyme, and black pepper (or the seasonings of your choice). Wrap the whole thing in foil and grill for a few minutes on each side, open the package (carefully!), spritz with lemon juice, and serve.

Oy, it’s so humid!

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To whom it may concern,

Re: my tomahhhto post of Aug. 1, I do humbly and wholeheartedly apologize for any offensive statement contained therein about the temperature and/or humidity. As so amply demonstrated yesterday (and again this morning), it can always be worse, especially when your office’s air conditioning unit is not functioning.

Sincerely,
Amy (aka Sweating, but Wisely Keeping My Mouth Shut)

* * * * * * *

So yeah, it’s pretty bad here, but on the bright side, our CEO finds conditions as intolerable as the rest of us and has set us free as soon as all scheduled meetings are over. Yesterday, I made it home to the land of air conditioned comfort by 3pm, which left me plenty of time to make dinner. A pasta salad featured in the new issue of Martha Stewart Living sounded great when I read it on the bus, so I hit the grocery for the few things I needed and got to work soon after. Maybe I should’ve made something a little more labor-intensive since I had the time, but after a long day of perspiring glowing, I just couldn’t be bothered.

But I’ve learned my lesson — I’ll really, really try not to complain about the heat from now on. At least until the AC goes out in my building again and I’m stuck here all day.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Oy, it’s so humid!”

I say tomahhhhto

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It was Satan’s crotch-hot yesterday, wasn’t it? I guess “sultry” sounds better, but I’m in yankee territory now, so let’s be real. It was sticky and stanky, and an all-around Very Bad Idea to be outside longer than the time it takes to walk to the nearest Mister Softee truck.

And since the Mr. (Roth, not Softee) and I both had big lunches yesterday, a full-on dinner just wasn’t happening. So I took the rest of the tomatoes from my friend’s garden, chopped ’em up with some basil from mine, and topped it with good balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of smoked fleur de sel. (Thanks for that idea, Claudia!)

It’s a great time of year to be a lazy cook, isn’t it?

The unkosher

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My friends have been the recipients of much of my smoker bounty for the past couple of days, but we still had a little left in the fridge tonight. As you know if you’ve read this blog for even a short time, I hate leftovers — unless I can turn them into something else.

But this week’s Epicurious newsletter changed that for me, at least for one meal. The newsletter included a recipe for an arugula and peach salad that I knew would be great with our leftovers, so while the pork was reheating, I whipped up the salad with my farmers’ market arugula, and we were eating within 30 minutes of getting home. The pork was still very tasty, but this salad is something you Must Make, and soon. It was that good.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “The unkosher”