Georgian Style Green Beans

Anaida is someone who I consider a dear friend. She is from Moscow, Russia and has the warmest heart of anyone I have met in a long time.

I wish I had a picture of us together. She was such a joy to have in classes, she got along with everyone.

Anaida, are you out there? Can you send me one in an e-mail?

Anaida is a mature woman, in her fifties. I met her one day in one of my classes. She came up to me and asked if she could use a Russian English dictionary on the exam.

She was just learning English and here she is in the USA taking college level courses.

Certainly I would not be able to do anything remotely similar in her country. I would be lucky if I could order a cup of coffee let alone take a college level course.

It took her a couple of times, but she passed the exam and progressed to culinary lab classes. I had the pleasure of having her in my Advanced Cooking class last fall.

To Anaidas credit, some native English speakers have a hard time grasping some of the concepts the class she was in. Let alone learning a complex subject in a language you are just learning.

She inspires me to keep progressing in my French lessons.

Whole green beans in a carton.

Whole green beans in a carton. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anaida shared many of her native cuisine recipes, one of my favorite is her recipe for green beans, which is included here.

She shared many gifts from Russia like these spoons,

Russian Spoons

the toothpick holder, an apron, shawl all very nice things I hold dear and use daily. Well, I use the shawl in the winter. It is Russian made and I think it contains magic warmth yarn as it keeps me nice and warm in the cold. Lordie knows, it gets cold in Russia!

Anaida returned to Moscow as her visa required as well as her international student status. She often returned to Russia between semesters and brought us back lovely gifts and made the most tasty pastries she shared with the office.

Anaidas dream was to get into the bakeshop class at the college, which she was registered and ready to do this fall. Only one hitch in the get-along.

The State Department declined her student visa based upon concern about Anaida returning to Russia as some point in the future. Since she is retired, they are doubly concerned.

Anaida’s daughter lives here and teaches. This summer she got married to the love of her life, a kind German man. Eventually they are going to move to live in his home town in Germany. Being Anaida only daughter, I doubt Anaida would choose to live so far away from her daughter especially when grand-babies come around!

Even knowing this, they still decline her access to return.

It just doesn’t seem fair.

Could it be the recent change of power to Putin? Or is someone in the state department just having a bad day?

I wish there was something I could do.

In the meantime, Let’s make Anaida’s beans.

Green Beans with Herbal Vinaigrette Dressing

“Georgian Style, you will like!”

  • 1 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • Fresh Tarragon, Cilantro, Basil, Parsley chopped

Chopped herbs, use the combination you like best. Start with equal amounts of each fresh herb.

Use the amounts you like, equal of all three, more basil, or more tarragon, what ever you prefer.

If you don’t know, start with equal amounts of each, chopped together.

  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • Steam the beans until done, about 5 minutes.
  • Mix the oil, vinegar and minced garlic in a bowl. Whisk briskly to combine.

    Mix oil and vinegar. I added a few herbs, but you don’t have to. Any vinaigrette and chopped herbs left over can be used for salad dressing later. Just combine whatever dressing and chopped herbs left and you have a nifty herbal vinaigrette.

  • When the beans are done, just before serving, dress the beans with a light amount of vinegar and oil.
  • Top with the chopped herb mixture.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Only use enough of the dressing to lightly coat the beans. Dress them just before serving to preserve the bright fresh green color.

These beans are simple but full of flavor. I love this recipe!

Wouldn’t these go nicely in a Salad Nicoise?

Anaida, I miss you.

Anaida’s Beans

Advertisements

Pecan Crusted Fried Okra

Southern Cooking has to include okra of some kind so I thought Pecan Crusted Fried Okra would be interesting.

Okra

How many of you like okra?

The most common perception of okra is that is disgustingly slimy. I have to give you that it is slimy like a world of snails would love.

I’ll never forget the first time I had stewed okra and tomatoes and all I could think was “what is wrong with you people?” It didn’t help that the person who made the dish was a terrible cook. (Bless her heart!)

Then I discovered pickled okra and fell instantly in love.

Quickly I learned there are ways of preparing okra that avoid the slimy aspects of this misunderstood vegetable.

Used in vegetable soup, okra will give the broth a nice thickness, not too thick but not watery either. I love the little balls of seed that float into the soup, yummy.

Okra

Okra (Photo credit: NatalieMaynor)

Okra is found all over the world and is used in many cultures and cooked in just about as many different ways as you can find recipes.

I am working on developing content for Charlotte Cooks which begins filming the new PBS season in August.

We are filming a segment on Southern Cooking and that must include some kind of okra dish.

Robert thought it should be fried okra. So as I researched and thought, the idea of combining the southern love of cornbread, buttermilk and pecans with okra.

This is the result of my study.

Pecan Crusted Fried Okra

1 pound fresh okra – choose young tender ones over older more sturdy okra

1 cup Martha White Self Rising Buttermilk Cornbread Mix

(Use more as needed)

1 cup buttermilk

(Use more as needed)

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Mix pecans and panko together, use more as needed

Vegetable oil as needed to fry

Fine ground sea salt

Method:

Set up a standard breading procedure with trimmed okra, cornbread mix, buttermilk, mix the pecans and panko together in the third pan.

Standard breading procedure set up:
Use cornbread mix, buttermilk, pecans and panko

Wash and dry the whole okra pods.

Trim the tops off the okra, leave the pods whole other than the top.

Bread the okra by coating in flour, then buttermilk, then pecan mix.

Have a pan with enough oil to come half way up the okra in the pan.

Only enough oil to come half way up the okra. Don’t move them around too much.
See, even mine had some drop the breading. Keep those as “cooks treats”.

Cook on medium high heat about 3 minutes on each side. The breading will be golden brown.

Using a slotted spoon or slotted spatula remove the golden brown okra from the hot oil and drain on a fresh paper towel.

Season with a light sprinkle of fine salt.

Serve with Texas Pete Hot Sauce.

Be careful, not only are these lovely morsels tasty and addicting but they will disappear before you know it!

When calculating how much to make, always make more because you will need it.

OK, now here’s the thing. Many of you will experience the breading does not really want to stay on the okra. It is hard to bread an okra and have it stay on like it should.

Following the standard breading procedure making sure to get each pod coated in flour first then coat totally in the buttermilk then pecans you will have the best chance of keeping the breading intact.

Once they hit the pan, let them cook. Don’t move them around too much or you WILL see the breading all fall off. This is why they don’t get deep-fried too. Just enough oil to come about half way up the okra while in the pan.

Make sure the oil is hot so the okra start cooking as soon as they hit the pan.

Putting them in a cold pan and cold oil will result in soggy oil filled  okra. That is disgusting. Oil and slime. Avoid it.

When they are done, pile them up on a plate and serve.

Jump back quick because they will disappear before you set the plate down.

A Heaping Plate of Pecan Crusted Fried Okra

Ya’ll come and don’t be late for dinner!

Carrot, Cheddar Sandwich Rolls

 

These rolls are pretty straight forward to make and turn out wonderful.

They make a great roll for deli sandwiches, add a pickle and some crunchy chips and you have an amazing lunch.

Carrot Cheddar rolls

Carrot, Cheddar Sandwich Rolls

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 ounce dry yeast (2 packages of 1/4 ounce)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (non-iodized)
  • 1 cup finely shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup All vegetable shortening
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated orange peel
  • (The zest from 1/2 medium orange, use the  fine blade of a microplane)
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour

Method:

Heat the milk and water to 100 – 110°F. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar.Whisk it together.

Allow to stand while you measure the remaining ingredients.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (Or do it all by hand for a great arm work-out!) add the rest of the sugar, salt, carrots, cheese, shortening, orange peel, and the egg .

Turn on the mixer and get this all mixed up.

Add the milk, water and yeast to the mixture. Mix well.

Add 1/2 of the flour and mix well; about 3 minutes.

Add the remaining flour. It may be necessary to finish the flour addition by hand. This depends upon how strong your machine is and if it can handle kneading dough.

Knead the dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Oil the inside of a bowl and place the dough ball in the bowl. Wipe it around to cover the ball with oil.

Cover with plastic wrap or linen cloth.

Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 hour in a warm area.

When risen, punch the dough down and turn it out onto a floured board. Divide the dough into 18 equal pieces weighing about 3.5 ounces each. The same weight is important to ensure the same size roll and even baking time.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment and dust with cornmeal.

“Round” each dough ball into a nice round ball, flatten slightly and place on the parchment lined baking sheet dusted with cornmeal.

Cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes or until the rolls double in size.

Bake at 375° for 14-20 minutes or until the rolls are golden brown.

Immediately transfer the rolls to a wire rack to cool; brush the top of each roll with melted butter. Cool completely before using.

 

Lightning, Trees and Gasoline Alley

Lightning #2

A strong storm rolled through here last evening.

It packed a wallop. Being a storm watcher, naturally, instead of being away from windows and doors as weather forecasters suggest, I was standing in the front door watching.

The door is a full plate-glass door. (Smart!)

Swoooooosh  . . . Click . . .BAM!

It all happened that fast. Faster actually.

Lightning is an amazing powerful thing. Wind gusts are close behind in reputation.

I saw a flash of yellow and red explode across the street and knew one of our neighbors just got hit by lightning.

Lightning

Lightning (Photo credit: Pete Hunt)

The intensity of the storm following the explosion sent me running to the interior of the house screaming  like a girl.

Amazingly enough we didn’t lose power.

We are in a place where we are the first to lose and the last to be turned on. None of us have figured that out yet.

As the intensity of the storm dropped a few minutes later, I crept back to the door to look out again.

“Swoooosh . . . Fallen oak

I saw a man in a rain parka, soaked to the bone, outside picking up storm debris while there was still plenty of lightning rumbling overhead. Crazy!

We were most concerned about who got hit by the explosion. So a few minutes later, I grabbed my camera and stepped outside.

English: I photographed Jim Scancarelli, artis...

English: I photographed Jim Scancarelli, artist for the Gasoline Alley comic strip, at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, VA on August 14, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rain-soaked man was our neighbor, Jim Scancarelli, who draws and writes a classic comic strip “Gasoline Alley“. Jim is amazing in that he still draws each frame and colors each color by hand for every strip he writes since 1986.

Jim Scancarelli's Gasoline Alley (November 24,...

Jim Scancarelli’s Gasoline Alley (November 24, 2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quite a fiddle player too.

No computer or color fill,  Each hand drawn image is all done by hand. He still sends the strip in by mail with original hand colored drawings. In this day and age of technology, it is sweet to find something done the original way.

The big oak tree in Jim’s yard took a direct lightning hit. His power was knocked out, we were afraid he would have to have the entire house re-wired in addition to taking out the big oak tree.

It was Jim who was walking around in the storm.

“Jim, what are you doing walking around out here? It’s still lightning!”

“My tree got hit.”

He saw the “Swooosh” which was another huge oak tree falling over directly across from his oak tree and seconds later, his gets clobbered, right in front of him.

I asked him if he was alright and he told me he was but his electric pencil sharpener went ballistic and stunk up his house. “It just started going faster and faster, then started smoking, getting hot and so I threw it out.”

Jokingly, “Is it still going?”

“No, Pamela, it is unplugged now.”

Duh.English: Image of a wooden pencil sharpener.

While Jim was in darkness inside his home, he decided to be outside, picking up the debris from the tree that exploded in his yard and all the debris from the other oak tree that fell across the street.

He had just witnessed something hardly anyone on the planet gets to witness and not get seriously injured. I could see in his eyes a nervous energy. He insisted he was OK.

He spent it by picking up all evidence of storm mess and making nice neat piles along side of the street.

Piles of debris lined the street by dark

Some of the exploded debris that splintered all over the yard

His front yard looked like a 10,000 piece box of toothpicks for a massive giant had been spread across the yard.

You could see where the energy came down the tree and up through the ground and

Look carefully, you can see where the lightning burst through the bark and zipped down the tree. It is the bright streak you see up there.

exploded.

He is so lucky it didn’t travel into his home.

After dinner, Robert and I took our customary seats outside to watch the sun set.

Our skyline in our neighborhood lost two big trees recently. Another neighbor had a tree over 100 years old that split right down the middle. Since it was dropping major limbs on the house and damaging the roof and the top story of the house, it had to come down.

Very interesting to watch. A 75′ crane only reached part of it. They sent people climbing up to the top to cut it down in sections before they could use the crane.

Climbing trees with chain saws and cables to bring the tree down. Nerves of steel. I was nervous just watching them work.

My thoughts were with our neighbors as this storm passed over us. I was thinking they must be grateful that tree is no longer hanging over their home.

The far tree on the left is the one that got hit by lightning. The space in the middle is where the 100 year old tree used to be.

As the storm slipped by, Jim had cleared most of the debris that surrounded him. The electric company came and turned his power back on.

Everything but the two trees seem to be OK.

It is amazing how things can change in an instant.

Voila! Debris gone.

Gasoline Alley

Gasoline Alley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to Boil Pasta

Cooking spaghetti. Photo by Eloquence.

See how the oil sits on top? Do not put oil in pasta water, it just goes down the drain. Oil pasta after cooking.

Dear Tyler,

Here is another assumption I made. Since your father is Italian, and you grew up eating pasta, I assumed you knew how to cook it.

Boiling pasta is really quite simple.

You need to use a pot big enough to hold enough water to cook the amount of pasta you need. Err on too much water rather than not enough water.

English: Boling water in colour

Bring the water to a boil. A boil is when the bubbles actively break the surface. A boil measures 212°F (100°C) on a thermometer. A lid on the pot will help water boil faster. If you live in a high altitude (like the mountain house) water won’t boil without a lid, and the boiling point decreases 1° every 500 feet in elevation (or 1° C every 285 meters). it has everything to do with atmospheric pressure. Actually, boiling point is quite a science subject.

Always salt the water AFTER it reaches an active boil. In the science community, adding a solute to the water creates a solution that raises the temperature of the boiling point. Scientists will argue that it is not necessary to add salt because the amount of increased temperature isn’t worth it to ‘cook faster’. This is not why we add salt.

We add salt for flavor.

We add salt after a boil is reached so the salt does not pit our pots over a lifetime of poor cooking habits.

Most of all, we add salt to things we boil for flavor. Boiled potatoes are ever so bland when salt is left out. The amount required isn’t much, just enough to lightly flavor the water.

Be aware, when you add salt to boiling water, the water will flare up momentarily. Be ready for it to avoid getting burned.

Choose your favorite pasta and read the package it comes in. Look for cooking directions for the time it takes to cook the pasta to “Al-dente“. Each pasta will have different cooking times.

Place the pasta in the pot, stir it up so it does not stick together. If using a long pasta, don’t break it so it fits in the pot! Short strands are hard to twirl onto the fork.

Lean the noodles up against the side of the pot and using tongs, as the pasta under the water softens, fold the rest of the pasta under the water. Be sure to stir it all around so nothing gets stuck either to other pasta strands or the bottom or sides of the pot.

This is especially true of fettuccine or linguine and other flat pasta.

Comparison between different types of long Ita...

Comparison between different types of long Italian pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Set a timer fort the required time.

If cooking fresh pasta, the time will be very short, dried pasta takes longer.

Drain the pasta in a colander and try to save about a cup of the pasta water.

Boiling pasta

Boiling pasta. Fold the ends under the water as the pasta softens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Did you notice there was never a mention to put oil in the water while boiling?

Ha! That is because the oil sits on the top of the water while the pasta is below the water. It does nothing to keep the pasta from sticking together.

Stirring the pasta after you first put it in the water does.

After draining, put the pasta into a serving bowl and drizzle with a great olive oil.

Serve as you like.

If you are going to use the pasta in a salad or need it cold, rinse the pasta in cold water after draining to stop the cooking process. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.

If the pasta gets dry or you need more moisture in your sauce, add a small bit of the pasta water. This is why you do not want to over salt the water. Only salt it enough to make it taste good.

If you want to re-heat pasta that has been refrigerated, simple bring water to a boil and dip the pasta in for a minute or so, just to warm it, not cook it. This can be done in a small amount of water.

Drain and serve as desired.

This works for all kinds of pasta, semolina, whole wheat, rice, artichoke, quinoa etc. Read the package for length of cooking time.

Short pasta

Short pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Short pasta

Short pasta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pasta is a great budget stretcher so learn to cook it correctly.

The basic technique:

Boil the water – use lots of water!

Salt after water boils

Stir the pasta after adding to boiling water to prevent sticking

Drain

Drizzle with olive oil and serve

OR

Drain, rinse  in cold water to cool and drizzle with oil.

Enjoy!

Love, Mom

Pasta again!

Pasta again! (Photo credit: HatM)

Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and the “Presto Chango” Effect

Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and the “Presto Chango” Effect

We decided to paint the kitchen ourselves this past weekend. The quotes we were getting to do the job seemed over the top ridiculous.

Personally, I enjoy painting the rooms of my dwelling space.

I have learned to detest wallpaper and love the instant gratification of paint.

Immediate gratification.

The “Presto Chango” Effect.

Unless something technical needs to be done; I can paint walls and cabinets like a pro. Based upon what we found while doing this project, we certainly did it better than the last “pro” who was hired to paint.

I love doing it. There is another mental space I go to when doing these kind of projects. It is a fun place to go and I don’t stay long so it is best to take advantage when it comes around.

“Let’s go buy paint and get going ” we discussed one morning.

So off we went to the paint store to buy what we needed to transform the kitchen.

Robert was amazed as to how much we actually were able to do in a days time. We began on Saturday, mid-morning, and finished Monday around dinner time, after work.

Over last weekend we dismantled the kitchen; removed cabinet doors and hinges; and such.

This is how the sequence went: Degrease, wash, dry, sand, damp mop dust, dry, prime, paint 2 coats, let dry.

The kitchen is now back in working order and feels great to be cooking again.

Presto Chango. Gotta love it.

This is an easy recipe when you want something quick and easy. (And don’t want to mess up the kitchen.)

The entire dish is easily made in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

You only need a few ingredients.

Cannellini Beans, canned tuna, artichoke hearts, lemon and pasta and cheese if you like.

These are the major ingredients: Artichoke hearts, cannellini beans, anchovies, pasta, here we are using “orecchiette” and Tuna, which is not pictured.

Tuna, White Beans, Artichokes and Pasta

  • 1 – 2 ounce tin of anchovies in oil
  • 1/2 onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
  • 1 – 5 ounce can of “Wild Planet” wild caught tuna. This tuna is not oil packed. (Use your favorite Tuna)
  • 1-14 ounce can of artichoke hearts – packed in water, not oil
  • 1-15 ounce can Bushes Cannellini Beans (also known as white kidney beans)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 package of your favorite pasta shape. I like Orecchiette for this because of the shape and the ability to hold on to sauce. (The pasta looks like little hats when cooked.)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan or Asiago cheese to shred over top

Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, salt the water and add pasta.

Note how long the pasta takes to cook so it does not get over done and mushy.

Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add the anchovies and saute until they “dissolve” while being cooked.

Add the  onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are soft and the garlic is fragrant.

Add the artichokes, beans and tuna and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer.

Add the lemon zest and juice.

Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

When the pasta is done, drain and fold it into the pan with the other ingredients.

Top with shredded cheese and serve.

A salad on the side rounds the meal out nicely.

Tuna, white beans and artichoke pasta

How To: Standard Breading Procedure

Dear Tyler,

You asked how to bread something to make Tonkatsu or Parmesan style dishes. So here it is!

If you want to bread something so the breading actually stays on the product, you need to follow a standard breading procedure,

It is a 5 station set-up. Breading your food using this method ensures a great finished dish.

Flour, Egg wash and Bread crumbs
(To remember the order, think of the abbreviation for the month of February: FEB)

1) Ready to go product – seasoned

2) Flour – just plain flour

3) Egg wash – make it liquid

4) Bread crumbs – You can use any bread crumbs, Panko are amazing in my opinion. Instead of bread crumbs, you can also use any kind of ground nut, crushed potato chips, corn flakes, or plantain chips, Trisket crumbs, coconut, etc.

5) Final breaded product

In this post I am using catfish, but the same method works for everything you want to bread.

Prepare the product, trim it, skin it, pound it thin, what ever you want to do, do it before it gets breaded.

Season with salt and pepper and other seasonings if desired.

Here, catfish is getting seasoned with lemon ginger seasonings before breading

Dip each piece into the flour

Then into the egg wash

Then into the bread crumbs

Place the breaded items onto a baking sheet; drizzle with oil.
Bake at 375 F for 20-30 minutes to ‘oven fry’ or pan fry in a saute pan with a small amount of oil.

The family favorite for this is to make “Katsudon”  with thin sliced pork loin or a chicken breast sliced and pounded thin. We serve it over Basmati rice with Bull Dog Brand Tonkatsu Sauce. (I usually buy this in an Asian grocery store.)

Bull Dog Sauce

When using chicken breasts, you can cut them into fingers or slice a large breast into thirds, place each slice into a zip bag (don’t zip it!) and pound gently it so it gets evenly flattened. Season and proceed with the breading procedure.

To pan fry instead of cooking the cutlets in the oven, heat a saute pan to high, add a thin-film of oil to the pan and saute until each side is golden brown.

Pan fry in a thin-film of oil until golden on each side

Add steamed broccoli to round out your meal.

You can take the plain breaded cutlets and serve them with different sauces and sides to create very different meals from breaded cutlets.

Boil some rice, add some frozen green peas when the rice is done. The peas only need to warm through.

Place the fried cutlet on top of the rice and drizzle with Bulldog sauce.

To make a “true” katsudon, place caramelized onions over the hot steamed rice, top with the cutlet and then top it all with an egg. Cover and the steam from the cutlet and the rice will gently cook the egg. Break the egg yolk and stir it in to create a wonderful sauce. Drizzle with Bull Dog Sauce .

Tonkatsu with Bull Dog Sauce

You can create Chicken Parmesan by topping the golden brown cutlet with marinara sauce and cheese – I am partial to Asiago – but Parmesan, or mozzarella are just fine too.

Melt and brown the cheese, serve over pasta and more sauce on the side. Top it all with more cheese and serve with a salad on the side.

Chicken Parmesan

Breaded Cutlet with Lemon

Be careful when pan frying, place the cutlets into the pan so it splashes away from you, not towards you. Once the cutlets are golden brown, you can finish cooking them in the oven that has been pre-heated to 350°F.

Enjoy making these and think of other ways to serve them too. Change the sauce ( try Thai Green sauce!) and starch. Put a cutlet on a bun, add coleslaw and BBQ sauce to make it into a sandwich.Or make Chicken Piccata with lemon and capers.

Let me know if you come up with other ideas!

If you want to freeze the breaded cutlets, freeze them raw as soon as you finish breading them. You can cook from frozen over medium heat.

Love ya!

Mom