June 21, 2011

string beans and jagermeister

I began each night by ordering Hunan string beans and washing them down with Jagermeister. It was amazing how many string beans I could eat: four orders, five orders, more sometimes. I could tell by the number of plastic packets of soy sauce and chopsticks included with my delivery that Fong Yu believed I was serving string beans to a party of eight or nine vegetarians. Does the chemical composition of Jagermeister cause a craving for string beans?
--A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan ("X's and O's")
String beans and Jagermeister...gotta try that sometime. At The Strand there is a whole table of filled with Jennifer Egan's favorite books. I wish there would also be a table of her favorite foods (complete with samples!).* The passage above makes me wonder if string beans would earn a place at that table.

My parents are good at cooking a lot of things. String beans are not one of them. I didn't really start liking them until I had Nicoise salad for the first time. I had no idea that string beans could be so crisp, so fresh! I marveled at their vivid green color as I nibbled on their flesh (they were always overcooked to the point of brownness at my house).

Later I discovered the secret to making string beans is blanching them first. This one-minute step not only saves you a lot of cooking time; it also ensures that they won't end up overcooked.

One of the simplest side dishes you could ever make is string beans, onions, and mushrooms sauteed with a dash of balsamic vinegar. This is like the second holy trinity: mirepoix part deux. This is as French as I'm ever going to get.
*Don't you think Costco should consider pairing samples of authors' favorite Costco foods alongside the books they have on sale?

Onions and mushrooms - a match made in heaven for string beans.
Mirepoix de Haricot Vert
1 cup string beans
1 onion, sliced
1 cup sliced or quartered baby bella mushrooms
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and drop the string beans into the pot. Let simmer for one minute. Take one out to taste test - when they taste like they're no longer raw, but still crisp, fish them out of the hot water and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Spray a large saucepan with cooking spray and set over high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic, and sautee until the onions are fragrant and the mushrooms look soft. Add in the drained, blanched green beans and stir in the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, tasting along the way. Turn off the heat immediately and serve.

June 12, 2011

Nuts for Almond Blondies

Such a clear day, it's like the winter's over. Music on the radio now, waiting for the new talkers to come and take over from the old talkers who've gone away for a rest. And I'm head over heels in love already. No longer any need even to look at her. She's there in my heart. Drinking coffee. A crazy life. Like it's not me. And she's watching me and watching me like she's never seen a man eating before.
--The Lover, A.B. Yehoshua
The Lover is really good...even if you don't care about Zionism or politics. Multiple narrators, as in As I Lay Dying, but not as confusing or complex. As Yehoshua notes, even something as basic as eating can become a new experience in the presence of someone you're nuts about.

I'm pretty nuts about blondies. Unlike more temperamental desserts, it's hard to mess them up. I had made them plain, with m&ms, oats, and Nutella, but never almond-flavored. It was only a matter of time.

The following almond variation came to me as pleasantly and effortlessly as a head-over-heels sensation. What emerged from the oven is everything I imagined it would be. In fact, I'd have to say that it's my new favorite. But I've always been pretty nuts about almonds. Ha.

Nuts for Almond Blondies
1 scant cup all-purpose flour (scant = a little under)
3/4 cup almond flour
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 extra-large egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix the ingredients together with a rubber spatula until smooth. Pour into a greased 8 in. square pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Chewiness factor is maximized when consumed at room temp or not too hot.