19 June 2010

Turkish Green Beans

I have a glut of green beans this time of year, and as a result I am freezing, pickling, and trying to come up with as many recipes as I can to enjoy the fresh ones without getting sick of the same old thing. I grew up eating green beans that were boiled until they turned khaki in a pot with a whole onion (it disintegrated) and a big hunk of bacon (it added flavor but turned to rubber in the process). Strange waste of food.

One of my favorite things to do is simple and can serve as a side dish or, poured over pasta or rice, makes a hearty meal. It’s actually loosely based on a Turkish friend’s reminiscence of her mother’s green beans, a favorite way to get through Foundation of Folklore at IU (thanks, Lena).

Turkish Green Beans

1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed, and cut into bite-size pieces
1 – 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, or 3 large fresh tomatoes, diced, with juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large bunch fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried (1 tsp. herbes de provence works nicely, too)
Olive oil, salt, and black pepper to taste
2 oz. feta cheese, optional

Steam green beans in a medium saucepan with a steamer basket until they are crisp-tender and a bright green color. Drain and replace to pot. Add tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and salt; stir and heat on medium-low until tomatoes are warm and start to release liquid, about 5 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with black pepper. Crumble feta cheese over the top if desired.

12 June 2010

Roasted Vegetables

I was raised on meat (particularly the red variety) and it kept me alive and relatively healthy for a good 18 years. But among the many reasons I no longer find it a very compelling food source, I really don’t think it has nearly as much inherent, and diverse, a collection of flavors as vegetables. Case in point: roasted veggies. And to those of you out there who are not sold on the plant kingdom as a taste treat, I challenge you to find a vegetable that doesn’t get better with some blackened bits on it. Really. Try it.

Vegetables that take the longest amount of time (30-40 minutes) to roast: potatoes (red, white, or sweet), beets, squash

Vegetables that take 20-25 minutes to roast: onions, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, green beans, zucchini and summer squash

Add these to the oven last (15 minutes): sweet or hot peppers, cooked edamame or chick peas, tomatoes, fresh mushrooms

Heat oven to 375˚F. Chop your chosen veggies into uniform, bite-sized pieces, toss with a little olive oil and salt, and spread in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Don’t crowd them; the more surface area is touching the pan, the more browning you’ll get. Times listed above are approximate—just check (and turn) them once in a while.

I also like to add a bit of balsamic vinegar to Brussels sprouts, beets, and carrots along with the olive oil and salt for sweetness. And the potatoes are particularly open to seasoning; you’re basically making a baked version of fries by roasting them. Try chili powder and lime juice; turmeric, cumin, and cayenne; or good old-fashioned (?) Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning packets.

Roasted vegetables are great on their own or tossed with pasta or rice and a little parmesan cheese. Or stick them on a pizza crust or other flatbread for a handy, fork-free way to eat them.

Anyone else out there have other ideas?

05 June 2010

Trio of martinis

A few months ago I wrote about how easy it is to infuse your own vodka, but I never told you what you could do with it. How rude of me. If you have not already downed your gallon jug of lemon vodka sans buffer, here are a couple of my favorites (all measurements are for one drink):

Lemon Drop with lemon infused vodka:

2 shots lemon infused vodka

1 shot Triple Sec

Scant half-shot fresh lime juice

Shake with plenty of ice and pour into a sugar-rimmed martini glass.

Cosmo-ish with grapefruit infused vodka:

2 shots grapefruit infused vodka

1 shot Triple Sec

1.5 shots cranberry juice

Half shot lime juice

Shake with lots of ice and pour into martini glass

Cucumber-mint “mojito”:

3 shots cucumber-mint infused vodka*

1 shot lime juice

Splash club soda (optional)

Stir vodka and lime juice together in a glass, top with club soda and ice.

*For cucumber-mint infused vodka: Into a sealable jar or bottle (750 mL) , muddle 1 large handful of fresh mint. Leave the stems—just throw the whole bunch in there. Cut 3 pickling cucumbers (or 1 large cuke) into spears and add to the bottle. Pour in vodka and leave on countertop for five days, gently shaking once daily. After vodka is infused, keep it in the freezer.