A Farm to Table Story
I was lucky to grow up with an appreciation for fresh produce from farms and gardens. My grandparents in St Louis, Missouri taught me much about where food comes from. My grandfather, even though full-time employed with the St Louis Water Division, kept a garden in the back yard where I was introduced to veggie gardening. He grew a few tomatoes, okra, and string beans, but later on in life a friend of his gave him about a quarter of an acre on the edge of a large cornfield to grow a real vegetable garden.
In this large garden he grew tons of tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, squash, okra, and corn. The summer of 1970 found me banished from my home and sent to Cleveland then St Louis where my parents thought my relatives would straighten my rebel fifteen year old self out. In St Louis I helped grandpa with the garden and would help grandma can green beans for their winter supply. She also canned corn, okra and tomatoes. I learned a lot from them that summer such as, four vegetable dishes on the supper table was just about the right amount, and that a troublesome fifteen year old can just about go through a wooden fence when tossed by a pissed off Grandpa. I also learned that leftover green beans or okra was just as good as the day before.
This was the real deal Farm-to-Table existence long before the current movement took hold. They didn’t know any other way as both of them grew up on farms. Yes they could have bought many of their vegetables from grocery stores back then but I think they knew the best flavor was to be found in veggies they knew the source from which they came. These were tomatoes with a rich sweet taste that smacked of the ground they grew in. That wonderful dark, almost fluffy soil made for some of the best vegetables I have ever tasted. The hot humid climate was perfect for the veggies grandpa chose to grow there, especially the tomatoes.
Twice a week during my extended stay in St Louis grandpa and I would go to the farm to weed, and harvest the crops. It was there that I truly learned what a good tomato tastes like. It would be a typical 90° day with high humidity and grandpa would call me over to the tomato patch he was working on. Then he would take out his razor sharp pocket knife and cut two large ripe tomatoes from the vine. In his other pocket he brought a salt shaker and after the red orb was cut in half would sprinkle his tomato with salt and eat it right on the spot with juice running down his chin. I would follow his lead and it was on that spot I learned that this was what a tomato was supposed to taste like. During tomato season almost every meal was supplemented by a plate of sliced tomatoes. Now that’s good eating!
Grandma served her special Grandma’s Green Beans recipe at least once per week and I never tired of it, but I did tire of cutting green beans. She would cook bacon, onion and green beans that would be at home in any Farm-to-Table restaurant. There were no herbs needed to flavor this heirloom veggie dish. The flavor was carried by the top quality green beans, onions and bacon. It was a memorable trip to St Louis that I have strong memories from, mostly good ones.
Try this recipe yourself and see if you agree it is one of the best veggie dishes ever. Just be sure and make the whole batch because the leftovers are good for 2-3 days after and heat up in a jiffy. If you can’t get good fresh green beans frozen will do, but use the best Applewood bacon you can get your hands on.
Here’s to good healthy eating. Enjoy!
Grandma’s Green Beans
1 pound fresh or frozen green beans
½ cup yellow onion, chopped
2 slices of bacon cut into ½ inch pieces
½ teaspoon oil
If using fresh green beans wash and then trim the stem end off. Cut to about four inch lengths for easier stirring in the pot.
In a 3 ½ quart to 4 ½ Le Cruset™ or similar heavy type of cooking pot with lid add oil and bacon cooking on medium heat for 3 minutes stirring every 30 seconds or so.
Add onions and cook on medium low heat stirring often for 5 minutes.
Drain the oil and bacon grease and add green beans plus a quarter cup of water and continue cooking without stirring for 5 minutes covered on medium low.
Stir and continue cooking on medium low heat covered for five minutes covered.*
At this point you can let it cook for another 10 minutes before uncovering, adding salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and stirring. If it is dry on the bottom of the pot add a bit more water-2 tablespoons should do.
Now the beans have been cooking for 20 minutes and are either close or will need about 10 more minutes depending on the size and tenderness of the beans. Taste one to see if it needs more cooking time, or seasoning.
It’s okay if the beans come to the top of the pot as in 10-15 minutes they will shrink considerably.
At a recent cooking class I conducted at Phillip’s Mushrooms in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania I made Maitake mushroom tacos topped with Pico de Gallo . I needed some kind of tomato component to go with the tacos and didn’t want to use typical salsa. I decided to make a Pico de Gallo and use tomatoes from my garden since I have so many this year. Instead of using regular tomatoes I used Sungold and Sweet Million cherry varieties that are known for their sweetness.
I also had a new heirloom variety named “Juliet” that is similar to a roma tomato but half the size. It looks like a roma and tastes similar too. What I really love about the Juliet is the amount of bright red tomatoes I pick every day from my one-and-only bush. It really puts out the fruit! Into the mix it went in my trial version with the usual chopped onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime. It was outstanding. It lit up the Maitake tacos and paired well with the Asiago cheese I grated and melted over the mushroom layer. With fresh arugula on the next layer the Pico De Gallo made for a lovely looking taco that everyone loved.
A few days after teaching the class I had some more tomatoes to use up and made a new batch the same way as the first. This time I served it with tortilla chips, avocados on the side and a glass of Spanish rosé. The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes made the Pico pair perfectly with the chips and wine. What a great summer appetizer spread it made.
You can probably buy the Sungolds and Sweet Million tomatoes at most any farmer’s market in the U.S or in a specialty grocery store. As for the Juliets, I think they are quite rare and you would need to use roma tomatoes. What sets this apart from other Pico de Gallo recipes is the sweet cherry tomatoes. If you can’t find the ones I used just get the sweetest ones you can find and it should turn out fine.
I believe this would be a great side dish for any Mexican type food whether it’s burritos, tacos, nachos or tostadas. Give it a try and please leave comments on how it turned out.
1 cup whole Sun Gold tomatoes
1 cup whole Sweet Million tomatoes
1 cup whole Juliet tomatoes, or roma tomatoes
1/2-3/4 cup yellow onion diced small
1 cup fresh cilantro
2 jalapeños chopped, or green bell pepper if you don’t want it spicy
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
Cut Sun Golds and Sweet Million tomatoes in quarters, then cut in half. *
Dice Juliets or romas.
Add everything together in a 2-3 quart mixing bowl tossing until distributed equally. Toss fairly gentle so you don’t break down the tomatoes too much.
As a salsa it serves about 6-8. For a taco topping this will tap about 30 tacos.
I like to cut the cherry tomatoes in quarters then lay them skin side down in a row of four pieces and cut in half.
Almost every year since moving out of Alaska I have returned for a week or two in the summer to visit with friends and go fishing. This year was one of the few years when my crew of three, (wife, brother and sister) went somewhere other than the Kenai Peninsula. We decided a change in scenery would be good and the fishing better.
Fishing the Kenai River we have it good and easy. We stay at the same cabins or next door on most of our trips there in the last twelve years. It’s an easy walk to the river that takes one minute and the town of Soldotna is just five minute’s drive from the cabins when we need groceries or fishing gear. The fishing is usually good but in the last four years the once mighty runs of king salmon have diminished in a big way. Without the kings to fish for it has been easier to divert from our usual location.
This year we went way off the grid and picked a lodge in the Inside Passage area of Alaska. With the nearest town a thirty minute boat ride from the lodge we got away from it all. That is except for the numerous Humpback Whales, sea otters, seals, sea lions and seabirds too numerous to count. Fish Alaska magazine had spotlighted the area we were heading to in their May issue saying that it is hard to go fishless in the Gustavus area. While we were not in Gustavus our lodge was a mere hour away by boat and many of the fishing spots mentioned in the article were near our lodge. We figured on this being one of the best fishing trips ever.
On our first day we arrived around 11:30 in the morning and were eager to get started. As soon our briefing was concluded we were shown the boat that would be ours for six days. I was to be our guide on this self-guided adventure in this new and exciting wilderness hotspot. Now all I had to do was find fish in an area where there were no other fishing boats to lead us. Off we went in search of halibut that can get up to 900 pounds!
On our first try we were hampered by big tides that kept our anchor slipping and our bait floating up from the bottom a hundred yards off the back of the boat. Not a way to catch halibut. Digging into my memory of fishing in Seward I tried jigging in deeper water for the hidden halibut by Lemesuier Island two miles from our lodge. There I at least managed to get a bite that proved to be the one and only bite of the day. Going fishless the first day was not what I expected but I was undaunted as we headed back to the lodge for more information, dinner and some much needed rest. Our plane leaving Baltimore for an overnight stopover in Seattle was delayed five hours which left us with two hours rest in our hotel. We had hoped to get seven hours of sleep before the flight to Alaska the next morning. It’s tough being sharp after a four hour time change and two hours of sleep when running a boat in tricky Alaska waters.
The first full day dawned blue and sunny as my wife and I headed out just after dawn to catch halibut. I had seen a spot from the flight from our floatplane that I figured would yield halibut. We motored out for fifteen minutes on calm blue-green seas to this promising spot. All the way seeing Humpback Whales, and many otters for our wilderness entertainment. After anchoring up we didn’t have to wait but about fifteen minutes when my wife said, “I’m getting a bite”. I had just enough time to look at her rod tip before it went down hard. I quickly reeled up mine and grabbed her rod to fight this express train heading south and knew we had a big fish.
When I got it up to the boat we were both thrilled to see it was a nice eighty pounder and knew we were going home with plenty of fish on this trip. We caught four more, throwing two of the little ones back before heading to the lodge to get my sleepy siblings for the next fishing session. Over the next four days we caught over four hundred pounds of halibut, but released the biggest, a 170 pound monster, before finishing the week. We all came back with about forty-five pounds of halibut filets each.
The best parts of the trip other than the fishing were meeting and having meals with the other few guests at this lodge that takes on no more than eight guests per week. Seeing a big part of Alaska where we never had another boat closer than two miles from us except once was great too. The wildlife was fantastic! We got charmed by the calls of the baby sea otters squealing what sounded like a three year old human saying, “Mom”! over and over again as they begged for food and attention. Seeing and hearing the mighty Humpback Whales was exciting too, and we saw them every day. Curious seals would approach our boat while we were anchored up fishing halibut looking at us with their big brown eyes and comical whiskered faces from as little as twenty feet away.
The food was very good and while not fancy was delicious and plentiful. We ate king salmon, Coonstriped shrimp, and halibut all caught nearby. Peggy, one of the owners made several dishes I wanted to re-create when I got home including a cabbage slaw with Japanese rice wine vinegar, mayonnaise, and ground cumin that was excellent. She also made a fresh pie made from blueberries picked in and around our cabins. There was a hot bean dip with tortilla chips served just after we returned from hours of fishing one day that was delicious. I figured it was just canned refried beans with a little something added, but wanted to make my own creation when I got home, similar but better.
Since it’s hot in our area with the peak of summer upon us I love cooking in a slow cooker. My bean dip recipe is so easy it just takes five minutes to get it going and when done cooking just a few more minutes to mash the beans and top with cheese for a side dish or a dip. Using the mild Oaxaca dried chilies I bought from Melissa’s Produce the flavor is amazing. It has a rich smoky aroma that pairs wells with shredded Asiago cheese or medium sharp cheddar on top. To get these great dried Oaxaca chilies most of us need to order online, but it’s well worth it. Try this bean dip with a cool glass of sangria for a nice pairing.
In the near future I plan on cooking up some halibut tacos and serve these mashed beans on the side. With a freezer full of halibut I’ll post a new recipe or two in the coming weeks, I hope you give the beans a try and please share this tasty and healthy dish with family and friends.
Slow Cooker Bean Dip
2 1/2 cups dried pinto beans
6 cups water
3/4 cups diced yellow or white onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 dried Oaxaca chili peppers, or 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1 t salt
Cook all ingredients in a slow cooker for 8 hours on low.
Strain liquid and reserve.
Mash beans with a potato masher, adding back some of the liquid until desired consistency is reached.
Serve with grated cheese on top.
This stores well in the fridge for up to a week. Just reheat in oven, stove top, or microwave adding a little water if needed.
You can mash all or half of the beans and use the remaining whole beans in chili or serve as a side dish.
To order Melissa’s Oaxaca peppers click on this link:
In celebration of asparagus season I decided to develop an asparagus rice pilaf recipe for you asparagus lovers out there. I have been eating asparagus almost every day for over two weeks and still am not tired of it. I usually only buy locally grown so I expect the season around here is going to be over in about two weeks and I’ll be done with fresh asparagus until next year. I admit to buying the South American asparagus occasionally when I just have to have it, but I never said I was 100% locavore!
Asparagus is so versatile you can put it in salads in its raw, grilled, or blanched form. To grill asparagus on over charcoal with a bit of olive oil, herbs and spices is true summer bliss. It goes great with Asian foods like a chicken and asparagus stir fry or even a hot sour soup with asparagus. In soups it really shines whether hot or cold. I love the recipe I developed two years ago for a chilled asparagus soup using almond milk. You can find it here:http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/category/soups/page/2/ The problem with most hot asparagus soups when dining out it the amount of heavy cream restaurants like to use.
What I had in mind was a rice dish using asparagus that would pair well with fresh Alaska salmon that is just showing up in local grocery stores and Costco. I served a nice salmon burger, and a side of stir fried bokchoy and Thai basil with the asparagus rice pilaf last night with great results. This rice dish would go well with grilled chicken, pork chops or shrimp. It’s fast, easy and healthy like almost every recipe I develop and hope you will give it a try and leave a comment on how it turned out. And by all means pair it with a hunk of grilled Alaska salmon and a chilled Pinot Gris, or Pinot Noir for a winning combination.
Asparagus Rice Pilaf
2 cups Uncle Ben’s Converted rice, or other similar rice
4 cups water
1 1/2- 2 cups asparagus*
1/2 cup minced yellow or white onion
1/2 cup fresh celery chopped
1/3 cup diced fresh carrots
1 tablespoon Better than Bouillon chicken base
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 t turmeric, optional
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, optional
In a 2 1/2 quart pot on high heat bring water, onion, celery, butter and chicken base to a boil.
Add carrots and rice and return to a boil.
Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook covered for 8 minutes.
Add asparagus and stir in well.
Lower heat a bit and cook 5 to 10 more minutes or until most water is absorbed.
Let sit for 5 minutes covered or serve right a way.
*About a half pound of asparagus yields 1 1/2 cups of one inch pieces after trimming away the tough 2-3 inches from the bottom of the stalks.
Through a series of events that I had not intended I ended up at the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual meeting in Washington DC. I was invited on a “press pass” to write about, photograph and enjoy this gathering of food writers, food photographers, food stylists, chefs and other foodie folks. Funny thing is I had never even heard of this organization that has been around for thirty seven years. The meeting was to be held in Washington DC this year making it an easy commute from my home. I went online and investigated their website for info on the organization and this year’s meeting.
I was introduced to Robert Shueller at Melissa’s produce before the event to test some of their products. I was sent a box with potatoes, Hatch salsa, shallots, pearl onions and other veggie delights. I also received their “Great Peppers Cookbook” and a cookbook on using Dutch Yellow Potatoes. I had used Melissa’s products for years but had no idea they had such a large product line. They have more fruits and veggies that you can imagine. Well over half of my meals at home and at restaurants are vegetarian so I appreciate companies like Melissa’s bringing us a wide variety of vegetables and fruits.
One of the most memorable moments for me was the keynote address by José Andrés where he spoke of the need to reduce our meat consumption and eat more vegetables. Here’s a professional cook like myself who has transitioned from a diet heavy in meat to a more vegetarian-like diet. He also spoke of his work in Haiti bringing clean efficient gas stoves to the locals who have been suffering from the toxic fumes of cooking with charcoal. José also spoke of the environmental damage inflicted on the island of Haiti from cutting down most of the islands trees to make charcoal for cooking. With a lack of trees to hold back the rains the farmer’s fields were susceptible to damaging erosion which then led to more particulates in the surrounding ocean damaging the coral reefs. This also led to less fish available to the local’s diets compounding the problem of feeding a family even further. Jose is one amazing human being!
On Friday I arrived in Washington, DC and picked up my pass. For the next four days it would be a blur of meeting food photographers, food stylists, chefs and bloggers to discuss our respective food worlds with. Sitting in on numerous sessions I learned a ton of new information to take my blog to the next level and hopefully bring you better quality photographs, as well as better written recipes. The professional food photographers generously shared tips with us mere mortals on how to step up our game. I will now be using natural light more often to see if I can get a clearer picture thanks to the help from the professional photographers. The last day of the event I sat in on a session aimed at writing better recipes and expect my recipes to be improved thanks to that session.
This week’s post bring a new and appropriate giveaway. Melissa’s has generously agreed to send one lucky winner a box of products similar to what I received. You can’t imagine the variety of their product line, and if you are the lucky winner you will get a glimpse of it in your home. To be entered just submit a comment on this post. For an extra chance in the drawing comment on any of my Facebook posts over the week following the publishing of this post, and you will double your chances to win.
For this week’s recipe I want to share one of my kitchen secrets. I eat steak maybe twice a year, but have in my kitchen two or more steak seasoning spice blends that work wonders in many vegetable recipes. Here is one of my original recipes using McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning on potatoes. Warning, they are addictive!
Roasted Dutch Yellow Potatoes with Steak Seasoning
1 1/2 pound Mellisa’s Dutch yellow potatoes, or other type
2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil, or plain olive oil
3-4 teaspoons steak seasoning*
Preheat oven to 350°
Scrub and wash potatoes then dry.
Cut lengthwise so you have 4 wedges.
Put wedges on cookie sheet pan and drizzle garlic infused olive oil over them.
Sprinkle half of the steak seasoning then mix well. Add the rest of the steak seasoning and mix well again to coat the wedges.
Bake for 20 minutes at 350°.
Remove from oven, stir potatoes then return to oven increase heat to 400° and cook for 20 more minutes or until lightly brown and tender.
*I use one of 3 steak seasonings. Either Urban Accents-Chicago Steak and Chop, McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning, or Kent Rathburn’s Steak and Chop Salt. All of them work well but I think McCormick’s is my favorite as it has more black pepper.
One person’s idea of fast meal preparation is different from another’s. Many of you use your microwave oven often and I use mine about once a year. Without the use of a microwave to speed things up fast meal prep is a bit more difficult but doable. For example, take the humble crockpot. Many recipes for a crockpot meal take less than ten minutes to prep and when you get home just like magic you have a house that smells like mom has been in the kitchen cooking all day and it is ready to eat!
Stir fried meals are quick and easy if you buy your veggies and meats already cut up and ready for the wok. You would also have to have leftover rice to make this method fast or, god forbid use microwaved heat-and-eat rice. Overall a stir fry meal is healthy and fast.
You can take a steak or chicken breast that has been pounded out real thin and it cooks in five to six minutes on the grill or in a frying pan. With some steamed fresh or frozen veggies and a salad you have a winning combination that if seasoned right should taste great. Blackened catfish, salmon or tilapia also cook very fast due to the high heat used in the blackening method.
All of these should take about ten minutes which I believe most of us would consider a fast meal.
With all these types of fast cooking I believe you can eat well without going to the aid of frozen dinners, or eating too many canned foods. Life is too short to eat crap food! With that in mind I’ll share a fairly quick breakfast meal that even though it takes about twenty minutes it’s delicious and healthy. No recipe needed on this one that I’ll call Southwestern Sweet Potato Hash.
Just get about one sweet potato per two persons peeling and cutting it into bite sized bits. Put it into a pot and cover with water. Add a bit of salt and bring to a boil. Simmer until just about tender. While it’s simmering cut up bell peppers(or jalapeños if you like it hot), and onions. Sauté them in a bit of olive oil on low while the spuds are cooking.
If the onions and peppers are soft before the potatoes remove them to a plate. When the spuds are done drain them and add to the pan the onions and peppers were in with a bit more oil. Cook for about eight minutes stirring/flipping every three or so minutes. About five minutes into this add back to the pan the onion and green peppers. If you like add a few tablespoons of cooked and drained black beans. At this time add some ground cumin, paprika, and Lawrey’s Seasoning salt. Just before serving adjust salt and pepper if needed.
Your breakfast is just about ready now and if you want you can cook up some over easy or scrambled eggs to go with it. You might even want to add some grated cheese on top of the hash. Serve with a side of avocado slices and salsa. This filling and healthy breakfast was made from scratch by you in less than twenty minutes and is better than just about any breakfast joint’s food. Give it a try and let me know how your version turned out in the comments section. If I get more than ten comments on this one I’ll give away a $50 Whole Foods gift card to a winner chosen at random. If you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby I’ll change it to a local grocery store gift card.
I recently bought a copy of the White House Cookbook to replace the one I had back in the 1970’s and 80’s. This one seems the same except instead that Ida Saxon-McKinley is replaced by an inset photo of Edith Boling-Wilson. The recipes crack me up with the less-than-specific directions, but it still proves useful in searching out ideas for farm fresh foods. Back in the 1880’s when it was originally written I suspect all food was either fresh, dried or canned as freezers were not in common use until around 1913, and even then only a few owned such a luxury.
While flipping carefully through the brown and easily cracked pages I found several parsnip recipes. Parsnips are not a vegetable most of us know well, or eat often. They are related to carrots and have the same shape, but are white. Unlike carrots parsnips are not eaten raw often. Parsnips have a wonderful flavor similar to a turnip but milder and sweeter. Parsnips cook fairly quick and are versatile. You can add them to soups, roasts, mash them, sauté them, or stew them like in The White House Cookbook. Here is what the recipe from over a hundred years ago looks like:
After washing and scraping the parsnips slice them about half of an inch thick. Put them in a saucepan of just enough water to barely cook them; add a tablespoonful of butter, season with salt and pepper, the cover closely. Stew them until the water has cooked away, watching carefully and stirring often to prevent burning, until they are soft. When they are done they will be of a creamy light straw color and deliciously sweet, retaining all the goodness of the vegetable.
Curious about this recipe I proceeded to sort of follow it finding that if I would have cooked it until most of the liquid had evaporated I would have had very overcooked parsnips. It’s tough to cook out that much water with a pot that is covered! I also opted out on scraping my lovely organic parsnips wanting the nutritious skin to be intact. I found that the pound of sliced parsnips took less than 15 minutes from cleaning to serving which is pretty quick. I started them in cool water to cover with a bit of salt, pepper, and half the butter with a pot tightly covered and within eight or nine minutes they were soft. I poured off the water, then added 1 teaspoon butter and one tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley for color. I was pleased with the result and think you will be too. If you want some more color try cooking with sliced carrots(equal in amount to parsnips) in the pot and cut the carrots smaller then the parsnips so they cook in about the same amount of time. Parsnips go very well with just about any chicken, or pork dish as a side.
Give it a try and let me know what you think of parsnips, and this recipe. As always feel free to share and comment.
The leaves are turning color on the cherry trees across the street from my house and falling rapidly. It’s funny how the cherry trees are one of the first to bloom and stand out in the spring and now again in the fall they are vying for attention again ahead of the other trees. Dog and I walk under them daily and get an occasional decorative leaf or two falling on us while we walk. Soon there will be other trees and bushes joining the rush to fall season.
For now I’m still happily maintaining my garden and picking lots of tomatoes and hot peppers even though fall approaches. Most of my tomato plants are done for the year, but there are a couple of unknown heirlooms producing well. That’s the beauty of planting many types of tomatoes, you get to pick some throughout the season.
With this abundance of great tasting tomatoes I’ve been coming up with new ways to eat them. I have them with breakfast some mornings, especially if I’m eating eggs, and I also slice them up just for a snack at all times of the day. I’ve made, and posted gazpacho soup, gobs of salsa for chips and dip, and canned a bunch of diced tomatoes.
I figure I have two or three more weeks of tomato harvesting before I have to count on the local farms for fresh tomatoes. My herbs however will produce into October and beyond. One year I had fresh herbs right through November! As a chef it’s awesome to have a great little herb garden out back. For most of my life I lived in cold climates and had to resort to grocery stores for almost all my fresh herb needs.
With my tarragon plant starting to look just a bit old I decided to start using more fresh tarragon. I made a fresh tarragon salad dressing this week and for today’s post decided to share with you a tarragon pasta dish that takes less than 20 minutes start to finish. If you don’t like tarragon just substitute fresh basil for this side dish and enjoy just the same.
Fresh Tarragon with Pasta
12 ounces pasta of your choice, I like fettucine for this dish
2 1/2 quarts of water
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons oil
8 ounces sliced white mushrooms
1 bell pepper diced, green, yellow, or red
1/2 yellow onion sliced
1 clove garlic minced
1 heaping tablespoon fresh tarragon minced
Start pasta water, and salt boiling on high heat to get a head start. Cook according to directions on package.
In a sauté pan on medium heat cook onions, peppers and garlic for three to five minutes stirring often.
Add sliced mushrooms and cook for another eight to ten minutes.
If pasta is done it is time to add most of the tarragon to the mushroom mixture and cook for just one minute on medium heat stirring. Save a bit of tarragon for a garnish.
Arrange pasta on serving platter or bowl and top with mushroom mixture.
Sprinkle a bit of the leftover tarragon on top and garnish the sides with fresh tomato wedges.
Serves four as a side and two as a main dish.
When I was 19 years old my grand parents in St Louis gifted me a copy of the 1898 White House Cookbook written by the first lady Ida Saxon-McKinley. For those who don’t know about these treasures of Americana, the White House Cookbooks instructed housewives of the day in everything from home remedies, cleaning, etiquette, and of course cooking. This was ages before Julia Childs was on the scene to teach us American cooks recipes from Europe and beyond.
As a rookie cook I was amused by the cooking instructions from a time when pretty much all cooking was done on wood stove/oven appliances. The electric stove wouldn’t be in significant production until 1908 and even then it was rarely found in a home. So if you were baking biscuits the recipe would say something like “ bake in a fast oven until desired brownness appears” or something like that. There was no heat measured in Fahrenheit like we see in modern cookbooks, or exact time it took to cook.
I prepared very few of the recipes in this antique cookbook over the twenty plus years I had the White House Cookbook in my possession as they just didn’t fit what I was cooking in restaurants or home. On a few trips to Marble, Colorado we would stay at some cabins from the 1930‘s that had wood burning stoves and I loved baking in the oven using wood for fuel like in my antique cookbook. It was a bit tricky as I had very few reps in this type of cooking but it always turned out well. I would think back to the directions in the White House cookbook and roast a chicken with vegetables and then bake a cobbler for dessert.
The cookbook mostly provided me with an interesting review of cooking history, and I read it often. One of the exceptional recipes was a fried corn dish that became a favorite vegetable of the day at a restaurant I worked at in Frisco. The cooks loved it because it was so easy to make. The management loved it because it was inexpensive, and everyone loved the taste. This tasty dish is accentuated by todays super sweet corn varieties whether you are using Silver Queen, or Peaches and Cream Corn this recipe lets the fresh summer corn taste shine brightly.
I also have my grand parents to thank for leaving me their entire collection of cast iron cookware that I use to this day. Some pieces are over a hundred years old and still quite functional. For todays post I think it’s appropriate to cook this dish in a pan from that era. I hope you give it a try with your favorite fresh or frozen corn to see how easy and delicious this antique recipe I’ve adapted from the 1898 White House Cookbook is.
3 1/2 to 4 cups fresh corn cut off the cob, about 3 large ears
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons half and half
pinch or two of ground white pepper
salt to taste
Heat sauté pan or cast iron skillet for two minutes on medium low heat.
Add oil and corn and cook for five minutes stirring every 30 seconds or so on medium heat.
Kick up the heat to medium high and add half and half and white pepper cooking for one to two more minutes.
Add salt to taste and serve.
Six Little Tomatoes
This week I had a seven hour session of home canning where I made Kurt’s Killer Salsa(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/kurts-killer-salsa/), Red Habenero Salsa(http://www.fastandfuriouscook.com/some-like-it-hot/), and diced canned tomatoes. It was a lot of work, but well worth it come winter when I open a jar of home cooked goodness from the garden that the grocery store can’t compete with.
When all the tomato blood had cleared it was apparent that six little tomatoes escaped in the confusion. I was contemplating their fate when I thought of a trip to Greece a few years back and how I loved the fava beans cooked with tomatoes we had several times on that trip.
Being short on fava beans I opted for frozen green beans to pair with my six little toms and cooked them up while they were still in their prime.
If you are like me and through gardening or over indulging at your local farmer’s market has you experiencing no room in your fridge, or counter space you need lots of ideas for cooking veggies. Well, look no further for a tomato and green bean combo as I have a solution to your problem that takes less than 20 minutes to make, and is delicious too!
This is also a great veggie dish for re-heating so even if you are cooking for just two in your home this will provide you with green beans for two or more meals.
Greek Style Green Beans with Tomatoes
1 pound green beans, fresh or frozen
2-2 1/2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
1/3 cup minced onion
1 clove minced fresh garlic
2 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon olive oil
If using fresh green beans, wash and cut into three inch lengths. This will take longer, but will be delicious with fresh beans.
In a pot with water to cover bring green beans to a boil then cook for two more minutes covered.
Just after starting the green beans sauté onions and garlic in olive oil on medium low heat in a 12 inch sauté pan for five minutes stirring often.
Add tomatoes, and oregano to the sauté pan and continue cooking on medium low heat for eight minutes. If green beans are not done yet turn off heat to the tomato mix.
When green beans are done, drain and add to the tomato mixture and cook on medium heat for 2-5 minutes until desired tenderness is reached.
Add salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and serve with a garnish of fresh oregano if you have it available.
Fresh oregano can be used but don’t add it until the last minute of cooking. Mince the fresh oregano, and increase to four teaspoons.