Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Overgrown Green Beans?

My favorite way to eat green beans is to grill or saute them very briefly- so they're bright green and still snappy.  But when I've neglected to harvest the beans for over a week, I end up with overgrown pods that I'm tempted to toss in the compost.  These beans are way too tough to eat nearly raw- you'd get a serious jaw workout trying to get these down.

This is where Southern cuisine saves me.  While I typically shy away from long-simmered vegetables in favor of fresh flavors now, I have to admit there's a place in my kitchen for green beans boiled up until they nearly fall apart.  I just leave out the bacon grease.

I used to sit and eat cold green beans straight out of the can when I was a little girl.  I loved the tenderness of the pods, the way you could split them in half and eat the little beans from inside and, of course, the extreme saltiness of the canned beans.  Even better were canned green beans with little skinned new potatoes (also canned).

So now, when I have overgrown green beans, I just toss them into a pot with some little potatoes (skin on for me, now), a chopped onion, and water to cover and boil away until everything is tender as can be.  A vegetable bouillon cube, sea salt and pepper is all that is needed to flavor this dish.

This past week I served these up with an heirloom tomato salad dressed with olive oil, honey and red wine vinegar.  The bowl of purple hull peas on the side was a last minute addition to the menu- I just dropped the frozen peas into the crockpot with an onion and some water before I went to work.  When I came home, they were perfectly cooked and ready for dinner.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Second Only to Salsa

This time of year, I love salsa like it's a member of my family.  As soon as we start harvesting tomatoes, I start a routine of keeping a quart jar of salsa in the fridge at all times.  I just finished my daily bowl of chips and salsa a few minutes ago, in fact.

But my second favorite use for an abundance of fresh tomatoes is tomato soup.  I don't really care much for the stuff in the red and white can- never have.  It was okay to dip a grilled cheese in when I was a kid, I'm not interested in any canned tomato soup now.  I'm too snobby for that.

I much prefer a hot bowl of tomato soup made from my own garden tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and colors, pureed into the most flavorful tomato soup imaginable.  It's not flavorful because of exotic spices or anything- just pure tomato flavor!  I'm fairly certain that all I put in this soup is olive oil, a little onion, a little garlic, lots of skinned tomatoes, a pinch of allspice, sea salt and fresh basil on top.  It only needs to simmer until the tomatoes have given up their juices and the onions are tender.  Then you just buzz it in the blender until it's smooth.  If you have super fancy blender, like a Vitamix (hint, hint, family.  Christmas isn't that far away), you wouldn't even have to peel the tomatoes.

I still served it with some grilled cheese sandwiches, but we all agreed that the soup stole the show.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Pickling Jalapenos Today

The air is spicy in my house.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Can It!

I'm teaching a really awesome interactive class on Sunday where you get to bring your own (homegrown or market) fresh produce and I teach you to can it!  It's at Kitchen in the Market, the gorgeous kitchen at Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis.  There are still some spots available, but sign up quickly because I'm keeping the class size small so that I'll have time to work one-on-one with everyone [click the link above to register].  The best part about this class is that with a variety of foods being canned, I'm thinking a little swapping and bartering might happen...

If you miss this one, there will be more in the coming months.  I'd love to see familiar faces in this series of canning classes!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Foiled Again

I've been stockpiling all of my best canned goods for a year in preparation for the MN State Fair.  For the past two years I've not been able to enter anything because of being out of town during the required delivery dates or accidentally breaking the competition rules.  [What?  No quilted jelly jars?  And who cans salsa in half pint jars?  I could eat that on 3 chips!]

This year was going to be my year.  I registered online with my Thai-inspired pickled beans (with lemongrass, ginger, mint and Thai chiles), Thai-inspired pickles (eligible for Gedney's special Asian pickle category!), roasted pepper salsa, Indian-inspired pickled cauliflower (with coriander and cumin) and the most beautiful golden-colored vanilla apricot butter.  I checked my registration about 3 times out of paranoia before the due date.  I marked my calendar with the deadlines and scheduled in my drop off times.  I felt really prepared.  I even reminded others to get their registrations in on time.

BUT...I might have saved my registration, but I didn't hit the final checkbox acknowledging that I had read the  rules (probably about six times) and submitting my saved entries.  They have no record of me registering and can't bend the rules to let me in, even if I sniffle and cry on the phone and beg in emails.

I'm seriously bummed.  I'm kicking myself for not making sure I got the confirmation email.  The only silver lining to this cloud is that now I get to eat these jars I've been saving- the best and most beautiful of my efforts this year.

So this will be another year of scoping out the competition at the fair and preparing for next year.  Now is the time to start canning for next year's fair.  I'm on it.  Look out next year, grandmas.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle

My garden is out of control. I need a machete to get through to pick tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

It's That Time!

It's that time of year again, folks.  It's the time of year that I forgo bananas and avocados.  The time I think twice about each piece of chocolate and don't down a glass of almond milk each night.  It's the Eat Local Challenge!

I'm not mourning the bananas and almond milk yet, though.  It's just day 3 of the challenge and I've been eating really well.  I've enjoyed yogurt and homemade granola for breakfast, cucumber and tomato salads from the garden, grilled corn & zucchini salads and tonight's kidney bean chili for lunch and dinner.  Oh, and lots of black bean tacos and Whole Grain Milling Company chips.  All local.  It's crazy how good we can eat here in Minnesota.

I'm sure I'll be whining about missing mangos in a few weeks, but for now I'm satisfied.  Here's the basic recipe for the chili I made tonight:

Local Kidney Bean Chili
Not a "meaty" chili- but darn good.  It would also be good with zucchini in it, now that I think about it.  That's a little non-traditional for chili, but it sounds good to me.

About 1.5 cups of dried kidney beans (local bulk beans from the co-op)
2 cups tomato sauce (I used homemade canned stuff, but Buon Giorno Minnesota tomato sauce would work)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (from the garden)
2 fat cloves fiery garlic (from the Madison farmers market last weekend)
Kernels from 1 ear of sweet corn (from Wheatfield Hill Organics in Wisconsin)
1-2 Tablespoons chili powder (from Frontier Co-op in Iowa)
Salt to taste

Soak the kidney beans overnight or bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let soak for 1 hour.  Drain and add fresh water to cover.  Cook for ages and ages in a regular pan or use a pressure cooker and cook for 3 minutes.  Make sure there's not too much water/bean broth in the pot after the beans are cooked.  It should just be barely covering the beans.  Then add tomato sauce, jalapeno, garlic, corn and chili powder.  Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt to taste.  Serve with corn chips or cornbread or other delightful local accompaniment.