Green Beans n Shallots

I have never had a green bean casserole that I really enjoyed, it just reminds me of canned, lethargic green beans and gelatinous canned cream of mushroom soup…ick!!  The green bean casserole seems like somewhat of an afterthought, something that you throw into a dish at the last minute and pass off as a “healthy vegetable” so you feel less guilty about stuffing yourself silly with homemade dinner rolls, buttery stuffing and 5 varieties of pie a la mode.   Face it, nobody ever says “awe, too bad were out of green bean casserole!”  So here is my alternative.  It’s super easy to prepare, you can do most of it the day before, and it’s a whole lot  healthier than traditional green bean casserole.  I guarantee people will be asking to please pass the green beans at Thanksgiving this year!  ~Janna

DSC_0320Ingredients:

1lb fresh green beans or french beans (I actually prefer French beans, because they’re more tender and delicate).
2 Tbs olive oil
1 med shallot
salt to taste

Method
:

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To begin, start by cutting the stem and tip off of the green beans.  You can leave the ends on and just cut the stem off but I think they look more uniform when cut on both ends.  Rinse green beans in cold water.

Next you will blanch the green beans.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil (about 8 cups), also prepare a large bowl full of ice water.  Once your water is boiling put in the green beans and boil for 2-4 minutes, depending on how soft you like them.

When done, immediately submerge the beans in the ice water.  This will stop the cooking process and the beans will keep their bright green color.  At this point you can refrigerate the beans to finish later or you can finish now.  If you are finishing the beans later I would not blanch more than 24 hours in advance (unless you are freezing them) to prevent the beans from getting too soggy and limp.  Store in a gallon zip top bag or in an air tight container.

Take the beans out of the ice water and blot dry.  Mince the shallot and set aside.

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In a large skillet on med/high heat the olive oil, once hot, add the green beans and toss a few times.  Add the minced shallot and cook a few minutes until shallots are tender and beans are hot through.  Add salt to taste and enjoy!
GB&Shallots     GB&Shallots2

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Salsa de Sophia Roja

What’s in a name?  There’s a 2-part story as to how this recipe got its name.  Fresh, homemade salsa is one of the first foods that I started experimenting with.  I thought my original recipe was pretty good, using fresh (un-roasted) tomatoes.  Then my niece, Sophia, came back from almost a year in Guatemala and introduced me to their way of making salsa: roasting it.  Since then, I have roasted my salsa ingredients, both in the oven and on the grill, and it tastes amazing.

The second part of my story is this:  A couple years ago, Sophie and I were making salsa together.  Actually, I was making it, and she was hanging out.  =)  Once it was finished, we had about ½ gallon of red, spicy salsa.  It was beautiful.  After the salsa chilled for a bit, Sophie decided she wanted to have some with tortilla chips.  She pulled that big bowl out of the fridge….and dropped it on the floor.  NOOO!  All of that time, energy, and those beautiful tomatoes and peppers all over the floor!  Here’s the best part…I’m not sure if I’m allowed to tell you this, but she actually scooped a lot of it off the floor and ate it.  Don’t kill me, Sophie!

Since Sophie improved my salsa and provided me with a cringe-worthy story, she will be forever associated with this recipe, hence the name.

Ingredients:
(Think of these ingredients as more of a guideline and feel free to experiment.)

6 large Roma Tomatoes (or similar vine ripened tomato)
9 mini or about 2 regular bell peppers – Red, Orange, or Yellow
2 green chili peppers
2 jalapeños (optional)
2 cloves (pieces) garlic
2 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 cup cilantro, rough chopped
1 tbs lime juice
1 tbs white vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt + salt to taste

Directions:

Preheat your roasting appliance of choice:  Grill=low flame, Oven=400 degrees

Wash tomatoes and peppers.  If grilling, arrange them directly on the grill rack.  Oven users, arrange on a cookie sheet or other oven safe vessel.  Make sure they have plenty of room to roast and do not stack.

Allow to roast 15-30 minutes or until skin is blistered, TURNING THEM ABOUT EVERY 5 MINUTES.  The turning is especially imperative for grill users.  A little char is okay, but you don’t want blackened produce.  You may want to rotate them to get an even roast, but be careful not to squeeze any of the juice out of the tomatoes!  

Once roasting is finished, ALLOW PRODUCE TO COOL COMPLETELY before handling. When they are cool, carefully peel off the outer membrane.  For the peppers:  cut them open and scrape out all the seeds.  You may choose to use rubber gloves for this step. Cut into large chunks, toss them all into the blender with the garlic, and pulse until your desired consistency is reached.

Dump the tomato mixture into a bowl, add remaining ingredients, salt to taste, and devour.

Makes about 5 cups of salsa.

Thyme Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

I love fingerling potatoes and have had this simple recipe in my mind for the past couple of weeks.  They’re nothing fancy but very flavorful!   I served my potatoes with scrambled eggs with onion and green pepper, but they would go perfect with a roast, chicken, fish, steak or whatever your heart desires!  ~Janna

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Ingredients:

1/2lb fingerling potatoes, washed and patted dry
1 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp of fresh thyme
1/4 tsp kosher sea salt (more to taste)

Turn oven to 375 degrees.  Cut the potatoes in half length wise, toss with olive oil in a bowl, add thyme and toss again to coat evenly.  Add the salt and stir.

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Lay the potatoes skin side down on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until tender.

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Turn oven to broil and cook potatoes for an additional 2 minutes just to brown and crisp them.  Remove from oven and cool slightly.  Enjoy.

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Savory Cilantro Sauce

Have I mentioned that I love cilantro?  It’s one of my favorite herbs.  I love the distinctive flavor and I use it in many of my dishes.  Unfortunately, fresh cilantro does not last very long once picked.  You can prolong the life of it by snipping the ends and storing it in your refrigerator in a cup of water, like a bouquet of flowers.  Or, preserve it in the freezer using this incredibly flavorful sauce.  Drizzle over meat or seafood, use as a marinade or a stand-alone sauce, toss with pasta, the sky is the limit!  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

2 cups cilantro, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
½ tsp sea salt
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:

Toss all ingredients into a food processor and puree, OR use an immersion blender.  The immersion blender takes a little more time and patience, but it works out.  Taste test it to make sure you have it how you like it.

  

Fill a clean ice cube tray with the sauce and let freeze overnight.  Once frozen, pop those babies out, throw them in a ziplock and store them in the freezer.  The small cubes make thawing a cinch, and you now can add that fresh cilantro taste to any dish.

  

Crispy Kale Chips

These crispy greens are an interesting alternative to fattening potato chips, and a flavorful way to get more vegetables into your diet.  They have a simple, earthy flavor and a delicate crunch.  They are also naturally gluten free, and the fat in the olive oil helps your body absorb the vitamins.  Not bad for a few minutes of prep!  Just be sure to check your teeth when you’re done munching! ~Joanie

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Ingredients:

Large bunch of curly kale

2 TBS Olive Oil +/-

Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

Baking Sheet

Directions:

Wash your kale, then dry it THOROUGHLY.  I use my salad spinner, then a clean towel to dab off any excess water.  If there is any water left, your kale will steam instead of roast, which will turn them brown and keep them from getting crispy.

Once kale is clean and dry, remove the spines and tear into pieces a bit larger than bite sized (they will shrink) and spread out on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, then get your hands in there and make sure every piece is lightly coated.  Sprinkle with just a little bit of salt.  Be careful because these are easy to over-season, you can always add a sprinkle of salt at the end.

  

Bake in a 275 degree oven for about 20 minutes, turning halfway through.  Chips should come out crispy!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different seasoning  combinations.  Garlic or onion powder would be great, as would a little black pepper.  I sprinkled a little parmesan over mine when they were finished and it was yummy!  Let me know what variations you try!

Mango Salsa

This sweet salsa is so simple to make, but the flavors are amazing!  The technique really needs no explanation, it’s just a lot of chopping, but I guarantee it will be worth the work!  Unlike many store-bought mango salsa’s, this one has zero tomato or peaches.  I like to let the mango be the star with just a few complimentary ingredients.  ~Joanie

Ingredients:

3 large mangos (or enough to yield about 4 cups, chopped)
⅓ cup red onion, finely chopped
1 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1 lime
Approx 1 tsp salt

Directions:

Peel and chop your mangoes into small cubes.

**If you’ve never worked with fresh mango before, keep in mind that mango has a flat core. If you look at the stem side, you will notice the fruit is oblong shaped. Slice along the length of the fruit on both sides of the stem, then repeat along the width. This will give you the largest pieces of flesh and will make chopping easier. There is still a lot of flesh left, so slice off as much as possible without getting into the fibrous core.


Finely chop red onion to yield about ⅓ cup. You may want to add more later, but start small. A little red onion goes a long way.

Wash and chop your cilantro. The easiest way I’ve found is to keep it in a bundle, like it comes from the grocer. Chop off most of the bare stem, then finely chop as you make your way up through the leaves. I like to use about 1 cup of cilantro. You can adjust according to your taste.  If you have way more cilantro than the recipe calls for, store the extra in a cup of water, like a bouquet of flowers.

Throw everything in a big bowl (if you haven’t already) and squeeze in the juice of one lime. Yes, you can use lime juice from a bottle, about 2 TBS.

Salt to taste, give a good stir, and devour!!

Although for our purposes today, we’re scooping this salsa with plain ol’ tortilla chips, there are so many more ways to enjoy it. It goes incredibly well with blackened halibut, or add it as a semi-sweet side for smoked ham. I’d love to hear what YOU paired it with!