Wednesday, September 22, 2010

putting the "Sichuan" in the green beans

We made a Cook's Illustrated version of Sichuan green beans this evening; for some reason, their Asian recipes always eliminate what they call the "foreign ingredients." (I suspect that anyone who's interested enough in cooking to attempt their recipes is more than capable of going to Penzey's and the asian section of the grocery store.) Anyway, I didn't change much in the recipe other than to replace the things that they used to replace Asian ingredients.

One of the substitutions I made was to use szechuan peppercorns instead of the called-for ground white pepper; I wasn't sure how much to use, however, and I think I didn't add enough. Next time - more pepper! The other substitution was that I used mirin instead of sherry, but I just did a straight-forward replacement there. It was great, and we're both looking forward to tweak it a bit in the future.

Sichuan Green Beans with Pork
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp (or so) szechuan peppercorns, freshly ground
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (either use very spicy ones next time, or increase the amount to 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 lb ground pork (they suggest substituting 4 oz shiitake mushrooms to make it vegetarian; I think this would be a great addition in general)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp ginger, minced or grated
  • 3 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
To make the sauce, whisk together the soy sauce through dry mustard.

Heat the oil in a large skilled over high heat. Add the beans and cook until tender with slightly shriveled and blackened skins (6-9 minutes). Transfer to a large bowl.

Reduce heat to medium-high and add the pork. Cook, breaking up the pork, until no pink remains. Add the garlic and ginger and continue stirring for another 30 seconds or so. Add the beans and the sauce (stirring if it looks like it started to separate) and cook until the sauce looks thickened a bit (just another few seconds). Remove from heat; add the scallions and sesame oil. Give it a final stir, and serve.
serves 2 as an entree

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Early Fall Menu (week of Sept 12)

Sunday: roast salmon with fennel & tomatoes
Monday: chicken puttanesca
Tuesday: cook's holiday
Wednesday: pork with pan-roasted tomatoes
Thursday: espinacas con garbanzosFriday: peanut-butter and banana smoothies
: Tolkien feast dinner (bread; cold meats; cheese; chanterelles with bacon; blackberry tart)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Late Summer Menu (Week of Aug 29)

I've gotten so terrible about updating these! Here's one from a few weeks back that I apparently forgot to publish... oops!

: Salmon Roasted in Butter; Tomato, Basil, and Fresh Mozzarella Salad; Blueberries
Monday: slow-cooked ginger salmon; broccoli with crispy garlic & ginger; brown rice
Tuesday: cook's holiday
Wednesday: roasted chicken; oven-roasted carrots & potatoes
Thursday: Savory Bread Pudding with Tomatoes and HerbsFriday: out
: leftovers

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

blackberry-white nectarine jam

A few weeks ago, we went blackberry picking with a friend. We didn't have a tremendous amount of time, so our berry haul was slightly small, but the berries were at the perfect height of ripeness. I had planned to make Blackberry-Apricot Jam, but we were a little past apricot season here. There were some lovely white nectarines, though, so I used them instead. I also halved the recipe to accommodate my slightly smaller quantity of berries.

Using a food-mill (this is the one I got) to make the blackberry puree was surprisingly fast and easy. I am basically in love with the food mill now, and pretty much want to use it for everything.

blackberry-white nectarine jam

  • 2 C nectarine puree
  • 2 C blackberry pulp
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 packet liquid pectin (half a box)
In a large saucepan, combine fruit and sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, watching and stirring to avoid boiling over. Add cinnamon and lemon zest/juice and stir some more. After the mixture begins to thicken (perhaps 5-10 minutes longer), add the pectin and allow to boild vigorously for at least five more minutes.

Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.
yield: 5 half-pint jars

Sunday, September 12, 2010

the best applesauce ever

When Victor and I got married, one of our friends (an extremely eccentric friend...) gave us some frozen applesauce as a wedding gift. It was his mom's homemade applesauce, so bonus points for that, but it was also two years old. We didn't eat it, and we completely didn't understand why he thought it was a reasonable gift. I made some applesauce tonight that almost makes me understand why he felt he was giving us something of such great value.

The "recipe" here is beyond simple and imprecise; I think the important things are getting really excellent apples and using a food mill. We used freshly-picked Gravensteins and my brand-new Oxo food mill (purchased for making a jam that I'll write about very soon). This combination made by far the best applesauce I've ever made or eaten (if I do say so myself). I'm not quite ready to gift it to someone for their wedding, but I no longer think that present was completely insane, either.

Simple Microwave Applesauce
  • some apples (I had about 2 lbs Gravensteins), quartered and cored (NOT peeled)
  • a splash of apple cider vinegar
  • a splash of water
  • a sprinkle of cinnamon (I actually used some pumpkin pie spice mix I had sitting around)
  • a sprinkle of sugar
Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on HIGH for 10 minutes, or until very mushy. Run through a food mill. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

countdown to labor day

I made Marisa's Sweet/Spicy Cucumber Pepper Relish the other day. It's great - as soon as I tried some, I began to imagine glopping it atop a grilled Hebrew National dog - *drool*. (I love all things sweet and vinegary, and believe there should be nearly as much relish as hotdog. These jars won't last long around here!) No changes to the recipe - it is perfect as-is!